On Trying (to Word)

but transient, not eternal,
and intangible?

wishing for something deeper
almost always, an intimacy
with the coldest body

maybe language . . .

as if speech could ever bend
its back
far enough over to pluck
what is fathoms away

in between
and until the end

skins eyes tongues, we have

forever the unsayable
except where clouds
use me as fingers would
to dabble in

or perhaps, finally, the mute
are more essential
to the puzzle floating the rorid waves
of ocean’s windows

only at the end of us,
the real cannot be spoken



Tintamarre (a vocab-necdote)

Tintamarre   (n.):   hideous, confused noise; clangor

            Midnight. She’s struggling, dead in the midst of writing a pivotal scene. She desperately needs focus. She’s losing sleep-time, waxing on into the silent night. Her mind’s fighting to stay sharp and attentive. Suddenly, a din erupts outside her window and clangs across the urban concrete. A form of resonant horror that shouldn’t occur this late or this loudly. The startling noise immediately accelerates her bloodflow. Her second thought after “what the fuck?” flashes to “who the fuck?” This ain’t some corner on Boubon Street or some Christmas caroling bullshit. This is boring Portland on a school night.

            Impulsive, she rockets off her chair and strides angrily to the front door, wincing and squeezing her ears. She’s gonna let ’em have it. Boldly, she flings the door open to confront the inconsiderate culprits. The revellers she sees on the otherwise empty street are swaying like they’ve just come out of a pub at the gender-bending vaudeville convention. Men in feathers, tight leather, mascara in the cold, wan moonlight, all gyrating ecstatically. Inexplicable. Each of them is banging obnoxiously on an improvised drum of metal. Not a recognizable song, just a loud, confused cacophony. More hideous than hot cats crying. Why’d they stop right in front of her house? It’s a mystery. Under different conditions, say if she didn’t have to work late, she might have joined the banging orgy of noise.

            Any poise she had evaporates wickedly as she screams at their backs over the din, “Hey assholes, it’s way too fucking late for this tintamarre!”


Stillicidous (a vocabnecdote)

Stillicidous (adj.): falling in drops

In the night, she stumbled barefoot and half-conscious into the bathroom. She was so out of it from the exhausting trip, she tried to flip the light switch but missed. As she took the five steps in darkness to flop down on the toilet, she felt as though she was squelching through a lamina of fresh glue. Her toes made an unusual sucking sound whenever they pulled away from the floor. The god-awful reek emanating upward ambushed her nose as well. It was obvious that her lousy, drunk-ass husband hadn’t sponged the room the whole time she’d been gone. What annoyed her almost as much was his lack of enthusiasm to see her when she’d dazed through the door just minutes earlier. As she sat there peeing and discontented, she had a sudden urge to lift her foot from the mephitic tile. Her foot barely peeled off, pulling some sticky residue with it. Disgust rolled over her. “Damn it, Jimmy,” she yelled toward the open door a second later, “could you at least clean up after spraying your stillicidous fluids all over the bathroom floor!”

— J. Celan Smith

breathhelix (1)


breathhelix (1)


across the windsward of a grey-black city,

no rivers hang their stars tonight.

only autumn in the alleygarden, yet ice

distils its darker moments

in transilient shadows.

branches, swept bare and bleak,

quaver abovewhere weeds lunge coldly

near earthquiet roots.


within a lighted window, a boy

scrapes white wax from candlesticks

while his mother’s fingers dip

into sky for purple stones. elsewhere,

on metallic stairs, anxious shoes

climb toward lovers, their hands

burning in yellow flowers,

and below, in darkling rooms, lips

embalm young eyes, innocent spheres

no less wet for their closing.


above the frozen silence, the walker looks up.

night sends him its crystal picture:

“thaw-into-slowness,” the image says.


how long forgotten, he wonders, simplicity

that settles our hearts, this quiet

caesura, ceasing us, the bright hiatus that

pauses our cities, restoring life

by slow lapse into empty calmness?


then, to his ears, a new voice: an aria,

tinnient on the glassdeep air,

a voice that echoes the simple birthsleepsigh

of our most peaceful stars.


— J.C.S.