TJ Beitelman

Broken Hymn for Babel

– 1 –       There was a pink paper I remember when
– 2 –       One man I know read the library
– 3 –       Words are terrible. Music is terrible. Minds
– 4 –       Instead of school—no—my mother’s warm


– 1 –       I made these, folded in half, lengthwise:
– 2 –       Book by book until it broke up
– 3 –       Jumble in them. I was the boy
– 4 –       Hatchback (where are you going, son?)—


– 1 –       A transcription in something like an order—
– 2 –       His mind or marriage or bank account—
– 3 –       Following the ants to the woods—
– 4 –       Black line of beings. Strung together. Indecipherable.

Broken Hymn for the Better Part of Valor

– 1 –       The Gnostics kept mum about it, everything.
– 2 –       (Who on earth is he talking to?)
– 3 –       I tried to learn everything yesterday but that—
– 4 –       That promise to compensate us in perpetuity…


– 1 –       It was their religion. This freighted silence.
– 2 –       (Who on earth am I writing for?)
– 3 –       Was a terrible failure because I didn’t—
– 4 –       I shouldn’t have said anything at all.


– 1 –       How often we must ask for forgiveness.
– 2 –       (Who would ask such terribly stupid questions?)
– 3 –       Have the vocabulary to jujitsu my way
– 4 –       I should have left well enough alone.


– 1 –       The bishop says, “I’m a priest too.”
– 2 –       Are they really lies, these hidden answers—
– 3 –       To new understandings, or revelatory medicinal toxins
– 4 –       No one needs to know the truth.

Broken Hymn that is a Eulogy

– 1 –       Annie Due Loveless packed up in her
– 2 –       Out: what you doing you got family
– 3 –       And purple-flowered weeds in a green
– 4 –       Not do more than write our lines


– 1 –       Tomb in this the city’s oldest cemetery
– 2 –       buried up in this place? We do
– 3 –       clover patch. A storm of dust kicked
– 4 –       And step where we should not step.


– 1 –       One woman a full round Venus shouts
– 2 –       Not. The ground is baked hard. Anthills
– 3 –       Up by the caretaker’s mower. We do
– 4 –       And tell our lies. Homeless. Loveless. Due.

Broken Sonnet as Epitaph for Straight Talk

(A) Here lies topography plate tectonics free market / (B) Graveyard. This graveyard killed children six times // (C) The ranking member of this or that / (D) The fourth estate (to suit the truth // (E) Up. It never happened. It never happened. / (A)- Capitalism magic and epiphany and the coffee // (B) Sixty times. We are children. Seen better / (C) Congressional committee this or that working group— // (D) Of fiction). Here lies the sun, sky, / (E) I said: Here: Lies (It never happened.) // (A) Magnate. Six children kill time in our / (B) Days. Here lies wind shear. Here lies // (C) The fourth estate is dead. Here lies / (D) All the other stars. We made them


Broken Abecedarian on the Occasion of an Impromptu Middle-School Field Trip to Kelly-Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama, C. 2019

All together we traipse into the monumental park
Zero sum game. Zenith of what’s lost.

Built for reconciliation for shame for this
Year after year without fanfare, without fail:

City’s hard-earned blues. Young activists play
X marks where the bomb went off.

Dodgeball in the grass on lunch break.
Wreaths placed down at the blast place.

Every atom in the high sky: blue.
Vesuvius of hate on a Sunday morning.

Filament of breeze, and one man dances:
Ultraviolet. History of ultraviolence one block over.

Grace in a tattered red cowboy hat
The city answers this with sunsoaked springtime,

His impossibly baggy jeans, red cape.
Sent me home to count my money.

Impossible. Red. He sings, moves. He is
Right after the doctor stitched my wounds

Just—justice—what the doctor ordered today.
Quarrelsome: my mother would sue, she says,

Kick like a showgirl my cowboy! Improvise
Possibly understand because she is so joyful,

Lyrics for what’s left of joy, exuberance:
Or else she says something I can’t

No, says Mya, I’d be horribly injured
Melany says No, Mya! You’d be dead.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid

The man says she should shoot him now, shoot him “right in the fucking head.” The man says go ahead. There is a pattern. Blood sprays in a pattern. A wall is a wall. It can be wiped clean. Painted fresh. Life goes on: portraits of young children frozen in time; protein film unseen in real sunlight later glows electric, and always. Piece it together. Explain it away. Aftermath is still life. (9 mm.) (.30-06.) (Cancerous organ.) (Ignorance.) (Excess.) (Sentiment.) (Earthquake.) (Pilot error.) (Phillips head.) The man says it again. (Tongue, teeth. Tire iron.) (God.) (Fear of God, fear of fear.) (Car bomb, shrapnel.) He should be shot in the fucking head or anything or anything (Hammer, claw.) (Sick blood.) as long as she can bring herself (Boot heel, hands.) to do it now, to do it right this very second.
TJ Beitelman is the author of three poetry collections, most recently This Is the Story of His Life from Black Lawrence Press. He can be found online at

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.