Back to Issue Fourteen.

& We drown



If for every action

there is an equal                        but opposite,

then the question becomes how to define, 

            becomes what if nothing. Because

they brought me to the river,
                                      I knew what was meant

when they named it Brazos,                 named it after
God’s muddy arms.                  I knew what each canal

hid: the slivers of murk, the dead fish on the surface,

& because I knew the disappearance of the river’s mouth
                        (each storm filling it with more silt),

I knew the disappearance of my own mouth, each year
                                        of forgetting, each

unwording of the past, & when I couldn’t remember anymore         

                         I dived to the muddy bottom
                                     & tried to drown—

It was beautiful—                    the weightlessness,
It was beautiful—                    the belief we can crush
                                                 ourselves & never learn
                                                 regret, learn fear.

& when I realized my body wouldn’t stay,
that the desire to float up to the light was too much, 

I was relieved.                                    My mother said
                                                           we call this the act
                                                           of finding our Gods.

I call it             the artistry of loss

            but with half-breath,
& floating                    alone in the Texas heat

I want to call it the failure to turn ourselves
                          into what we’ve tried so hard to be.

Grasping the bulkhead,                      climbing the pier,
the sun above.                        

                                               If nothing
                        becomes the only way to say then



Justin Carter is a PhD student at the University of North Texas. His poems appear in The Collagist, Cream City Review, The Journal, Redivider, and Sonora Review, where he was awarded the 2014 Sonora Review Poetry Prize.