“Semiotics” by Malcolm Alexander

Malcolm Alexander


Ironic that within this ☮ sign, the outer circle of which
symbolizes the joining of hands of all nations,

looms a ready missile. Peace be damned, it middlefingers.
If you want a piece of me, give it your best shot.

So human nature yanks out from under us
the gantry of human achievement.

Yanks, yes, as in Yankees, often champions of a confrontation
the object of which is to bludgeon something

harmless and resembling a child’s head. Head, as in warhead,
meathead, penis, love missile: pick the term which doesn’t belong

to us. As much as we scratch our heads,
we discover that we are, inescapably,

our language. Just imagine, such strange symbols, indecipherable
across cultures as a chicken’s scratch, on occasion

one’s only, momentary ☮ before the head-chopping,
may one day be weighty enough to change the world!

And given the terrifying gravity of all meaningful things,
from whose unholy grasp neither we nor missiles

nor in fact anything escapes, if we fail to translate
our barriers into bridges, we may just conclude

ourselves. Ironic that only if we scratch
the sole sign-making species from the face of this planet

☮ will be unavoidable.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008


Malcolm Alexander: “I spent more than ten of the past twenty years in Arizona for drug offences. I’m finally free and living in Tucson, and I plan to apply to the University of Arizona’s MFA program next year. I like writing and publishing poetry because it’s likely as close to being a rock star as I’ll ever be.”

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