“There’s Something Unexplainably Oppressive About” by Art Beck

Art Beck


this speechlessness, as if it weren’t enough
for me to keep quiet, as if I’ve been assigned
nasty keepers—a persecutor
who strolls into my cell
four or five times a day
to remind me in his memorized English—
“No talk. No words. No speaking
allowed.” But as he leaves the cell-block, the steel

doors ringing in the air, the guards’ fear
lingers like cologne as if they know
the simplest language can destroy these walls.
Know, even if they were to tear out
my tongue, shatter my cellmates’ ears,
our fingertips dancing in code
would recite the story of the resurrection
and the life. It’s the inexplicable
illusion of solitude that keeps me silent.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001
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