–from The Unfinished

To still be held, against an atrocity. Some of this is vague. Things go on without repeating. One atrocity leads to another, I know. Some of this is whispered. In childhood, it was simpler— this folly, the seemingly ambient skies. At the edges of some moment we aren’t sure. This is a lyrical fable.

This is a fable, but not lyrical. It’s been reported from the front that you don’t breathe. One of our poets is here to investigate, though his grasp of the material is not certain. The material is uncertain. It’s formed by skies which are fleeting. It is formed by oceans, gulls or pieces of brick affixed to great white sheets of paper. Nightfall is a coincidence of sleep— a tenuous redaction to the unspoken notions already at stake. The moon does not trust us [yet]. The sun is yellow. The atrocities are hidden behind a curtain camera. To hear them whimpering to form a public language we have to keep them there.

This is a private language. Death is speaking. There is oil to burn. This is silent, so it forms a rupture. Its alternative is silence, but not rapture. On the condition of speaking publicly without saying anything. The alternative will not yet drown us. It is a public sentencing. Burning, as in silence. To dream where shadows forge the edges of the rain. Burning, as in life [faces you don’t come back to]. No one sees all the dead faces, the dead gulls who don’t cry. Yet we lie awake in silence. Waiting for history to erupt.



Poetry both creates & reveals connections which weren’t previously apparent.  It lives in an ecosystem we call language.  This ecosystem both impacts & is impacted by other systems of various kinds.  I seek a poetry which lives fully within its medium but is also aware of its implications, its environmental impact, its breath, form & touch.  As a poet, I am also a citizen, a participant, a conscious voice, a (hopefully) mindful observer.  At a time of catastrophe— the only word adequate to what is occurring in the Gulf— it is the duty of every sentient being, each citizen, to do what he or she can.  Writing poems will not remove the oil from the water, nor save the fish & wildlife therein.  Writing poems will not create affordable alternatives to fossil fuels, nor, perhaps, provide much-needed wisdom to our policy makers.  Writing poems certainly will not remove even one oil industry lobbyist from Washington, nor replace the oil money in both parties’ coffers.  Perhaps— and this is an old debate— writing poems, and thus reading them, is of no use.  Yet I know that the types of connections which poetry can help us make are a part of what is needed at the moment.  You may say, to paraphrase John Lennon, that poets are dreamers, but not one of us appears to be stupid enough to risk disaster for, at best, short-term profit and the inertia of old, self-destructive habits.  Some of us are not very good at science, yet we seem to understand clearly enough just what a nonrenewable resource is, and we see the hubris & folly in betting our nation’s and, indeed, the world’s future on such shortsighted gain.  It seems to me that poetry’s insights are not irrelevant fancies but just the sort of hard facts needed in this crisis: not “Drill, Baby, Drill,” but “Change, Baby, Change.”  I just hope to heaven it’s not too late.


Mark DuCharme’s print books include The Sensory Cabinet (BlazeVox, 2007), Infinity Subsections (Meeting Eyes Bindery, 2004) and Cosmopolitan Tremble (Pavement Saw, 2002). The Found Titles Project was published electronically in 2009 by Ahadada (  The latest of his many print chapbooks is The Crowd Poems (Potato Clock Editions, 2007).  Other parts of DuCharme’s ongoing project The Unfinished have appeared in Colorado Review, Eleven Eleven, New American Writing, Or, Otoliths, Pinstripe Fedora and Word for/Word.  Still other work is recent in Vanitas and PIP (Project for Innovative Poetry).  He lives, works in and teaches near Boulder, Colorado.

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