“Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” —Samuel Beckett
The shadows of my room are oily water Through which the black dragonfish navigate With lights that I can’t see. The pods on their backs Aren’t nautilidae hitching rides, But words for nothingness from different parts of speech That got the dragonfishes’ protection.
On that back, “zilch” is a verb, As in, “I zilched your chin through constant shaving,” Perhaps thinking of its fish’s barbel Hanging like a thin, long strand of beard.
On another back, “nil” is a preposition, As in, “There are no colors nil your crayon box.”
Then the words reveal That they have studied human cells, Performing mitosis and spreading out To other parts of speech So that, for instance, “Nil” is also an adverb, And “zero” becomes a conjunction, As in, “Nothing zilches nil zerond emptily.” “Zerond” and “emptily” are understood as the terms most in need of revision Due to leaving too much room for hope. “Zerond” is open to addition, And “emptily” evokes pitchers poised to take in root beer.
Such revision will take place, no doubt. They have that power. Even my feet’s imprints in the room’s brown carpet Are as fragile beneath the phrases’ waves As footprints on the beach.
Beckett was wrong. These verbal copycats Of the void can speak eloquently For it on their own. Typography Looks like a brank’s bridle holding the jaw Of paper or digital, paper-like backgrounds,
Like that of the e-mail in which you told me to shut up, To never talk to you again. The last time we met in person, I was outside, You in your van. The sun, imitating the moon Behind the glacial clouds, was lugubrious As it shone on the falling snow. In the cold air, Your running car’s exhaust pipe Released a tornado, a larger version Of our breaths, that sucked in The black dragonfish larvae, Those babies shaped like tuning forks With eyes like blossoming wistaria At the ends of thin, long vines. The kids had not yet grown their teeth out, Though they did while traveling through your car’s System, where they learned that nada conveys Both swimming and nothing. You said you couldn’t stop to think about the larvae, That you had too many issues to care. It’s just like how I didn’t care when you, Upon concluding your remarks and driving away, Promptly crashed into a signboard That said either “Traumatized” or “Traumatizing.” My vision wasn’t 20/20.
-- Aaron Morris is a student in the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. His poetry and short stories have appeared in ABZ, Et Cetera, Kanawha Review, and Turtleshell. He teaches writing and literature as an adjunct instructor at West Virginia State University.