The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues
OCT 2019 Issue


tongue-tied at the tip of a hat
the silent aperture
through which the world gets in
with its tired eyes and terrifying nostalgia
for a future that never happened

blame it on climate change
or the time it takes to become a walking cliché
I’ll be the first to admit
my original is hiding out in a witness protection program
under an assumed name
in an unnamed country

perhaps you didn’t notice
but I’m representing him at this very moment
same face same body parts
I’ll take the double-blind pepsi challenge
anytime anywhere

finally we can say with certainty
“I am you” and who can argue
with a salient simulation that responds
to your every command
if you can’t tell the difference
between your replicant’s thoughts and your own
then there is no difference
be assured there are countless others
who would love to take your place

silent multiples stand in the wings
each hoping to go on
for their 15-minutes of ted-talk sincerity
finally a chance to express themselves

if only you could see the world
through my pinhole of light
everything would become clear

the problem is that there are too many stars in the sky
waving “pick me … pick me”
too many beautiful bright-colored toys left on the beach
before the next tsunami sucks them all out to sea

the ocean eats everything in the same motion
paris floats by to take back its statue
but we all still demand more freedom
free to like free to buy free to agree
to be someone else when we leave the house

so brand me
so take my eyes with you when you go
I’m not using them

now you see me now you don’t
tell it to the lost ones
squirming in the shadows under the bridge
that connects us

my tongue extended
through a slit in the curtains
to be cut loose from the next word would be enough
stop fiddling with your gadgets
when I’m talking to you
the mind is not an on-off switch

you’re not really here are you
I’ve created you to fill a void
tonguing my ear gently a perfect hole in one
always make sure you’ve got enough tech up front
to avoid an accident
and subsequent scar tissue from forming

but the debt is too deep too pervasive
to clearly know what’s happened
what consciousness who’s lost what where
did we go I need more clarity
more time

o robot hold me close
I can almost hear what you’re thinking
the future would be better without me

take my knees as collateral
I’ll walk on my hands
just to keep the blood flowing

leave it to the myth-busters to twist
their facts into a more practical you
here the romantic divide
there the huff and puff of genitals
reaching for the clouds

so easily seduced by a giant ear
what you want to hear over and over
please put a stick between my teeth
and stretch me out on a board
in case I go into an operatic fit
and become a flapping fish out of water
fists in my pockets fear of drowning on air

when the curtain goes up
you must promise to play me as yourself
so as to convince the silent witnesses
the heavy breathers behind the lights
that you are me

spotlight on an adjective
nounless and flailing about on the old boards
I’ll walk the plank off a drunken boat
till the ghosts come home
talk to hamlet in my dreams
miniature golf anyone

stand me up and let me think
why do golf balls look like shrunken skulls
why does the sentence flow backwards
and stop in the middle of a thought
just give me a moment to remember my lines

“alas poor yorick I knew him horatio
a fellow of infinite jest”

why follow this or that stranger on the street
or a poem through its petulant permutations
there is brain damage on the tracks

someone has fallen off the platform
someone on a train is running lines with a friend
someone has left his heart in san Francisco
someone takes out her teeth and falls asleep
someone dies and is reborn as a character in a play
someone throws up in the nearest sink
someone screams a new poem from a mountain top
someone breaks for lunch
someone near tears fiddles with the buttons on her coat
someone on the street asks “got a dollar for a slice”
someone pulls a bloody someone off the tracks
someone looks into your eyes for a moment
hesitates and walks on


Charles Borkhuis

Charles Borkhuis -- poet and playwright. Finalist for a W.C. Williams Book Award. 9 books of poems include Dead Ringer (BlazeVOX, 2017). Recipient of a Dramalog Award. Two radio plays aired over NPR (pennsound). Foreign Bodies presented in Paris Jan.-June, 2019.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues