Devon Balwit & Jeff Whitney

Lifelike

by Devon Balwit

Red copse on an age-flecked page. 500 years of hounds and the runners of hounds gone to bones since the artist’s hand clustered the russet branches, the grove of birdsong and unseen creatures foraging. Without the attribution, we’d think it a sketch from last Sunday’s picnic. We know the place, have been there even. But see the name Leonardo, and suddenly, the trees groan beneath manna, the mute solemnity of the archive, untouchable. Omit it then, leaving the gate unlatched, no sign to ward off trespassers. Thus relieved, we can enter, quick as quick, rustling the underbrush.

History of the Knife

by Devon Balwit and Jeff Whitney

You’re it. You’re the rabbit. You’re the knife, the flensing blade, the wordless cry. You’re the tulle, rucked in the hurry to fuck in the stairwell. You’re the dropped clatter, the harrow scattering voles. You’re the slap and the burning thereafter, the skinned scrotum, the tap into nailbeds. You’re the splash over the bridge railing, the burst bubble, the sink into secrets.

You’re the frantic in the backward glance, the lifted curtain. Thunder. The dark-stained cloud belly. You’re the hectic, fever-fed, the uttering candle. You’re the raised palps, questing, the flat stare in the reflection, the back-lit pane. You’re the key, dropped in darkness, the groping fingers, not finding.

You’re the dark of a wizard’s dream, his book of mites and half-fleshed demons. The world tilts this way and that, flat-lined equator, continents of grief, islands of sorry. You’re the you of this poem, of the line you go to the window. Drawn to its red horizon, you’re the strange bird summoned always back to earth.

You go outside, pick a tree, name it Mary. You don’t know why. Important is the act of carving, sap-sticky. A rite lucky and mournful. The best coffins are made from what the earth can eat. Even you, the knife, flicking the forest to desert and swallowing ruin.

Sometimes, you tire of the whetstone’s rasp, the hairsplitting, but no longer a knife, what would you be? What beyond your pearl handle? A story? Fine. No street ever went anywhere golden. Now you’re a scorpion snipping the head of a star. You’re looking become wanting. You’re the balloon, floating away.

What do you do when nothing calls you anymore? When you turn, and there is only the empty clearing, those you came with hidden? When you wait there, counting Mississippis?

Best to remain the knife. There is a knife in everything, in all stories of suffering, beetle to hanged man, finches at a feeder. Every so often, one sings.

Devon Balwit lives scarily close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her individual poems can be found in journals such as The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Sugar House Review, apt, Cultural Weekly, The Free State Review, and Sierra Nevada Review. For more, see her website.
Jeff Whitney is the author of five chapbooks, two of which were co-written with Philip Schaefer. His poems can be found in journals such as 32 Poems, Adroit, Beloit Poetry Journal, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Daily.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.

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