“Slateku” by John Lee Clark

John Lee Clark


My son says let’s race
So we fly
A little ahead
I decide to lose without losing him

* * *

Walking right on the road
On a snowy night
With my boys
I’ve never felt so warm

* * *

What a wild time
We all had
In the shower room
Playing soap hockey

* * *

I feel for you
You never had hands to stroke
Your own wings

* * *

The greenest pasture
Is always
The one
I am in

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017


John Lee Clark: “The Braille slate has two parts connected by a hinge. The back is full of tiny holes and the other part has marching rows of windows. Set a sheet of paper on the back, close the other part over it, pick up a stylus, and you are ready to write. You press down on the stylus to make dots stand up on the other side of the sheet. You must go right to left so that the text reads left to right on the other side. Often described as ‘writing backward,’ I prefer to think of it as writing forward in a different direction and from a different spatial perspective. The classic slate has four rows of twenty-eight cells each. This rarely corresponds to 28 characters in print, for the English Braille American Edition code has 189 contractions. The one that saves the most space is ‘k’ standing alone, which means ‘knowledge.’ Sometimes you are aware of writing two things at once because the dots you are making stand up on the other side mean something else where you are pressing them down. It is not unlike painting the figure of the letter ‘b’ inside a shop window for it to say the letter ‘d’ to the outside. Braille is full of characters that are the obverse of each other—‘d’ and ‘f,’ or, if they are standing alone, ‘do’ and ‘from’; ‘m’ and ‘sh’ or ‘more’ and ‘shall’; ‘to’ or the exclamation point and the period or the prefix ‘dis’; ‘ked’ and the suffix ‘sion.’ Thus, to write ‘so you have it’ is also to write the ghost of ‘which and just it.’”

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