Djelloul Marbrook: The Body Language of Poetry

Vox Populi

Don’t gesticulate with your hands or make faces when speaking, the teachers at my British boarding school told me. It’s vulgar. I’m sure that this enjoinder at such an impressionable age imbued my poems with reticence and austerity.

But poetry has a body language. The poet’s way of breathing supplies oxygen to the body and to the poem. The poet’s way of walking and talking is inherent in the poem. I knew a poet who walked like the prow of a ship cutting through waves, the bone in its teeth, as sailors say, and that how her poems walked and talked.

The body language of a poem is also shaped by the script used in its writing. If it was first written by hand the poet’s hand, the stops and starts, the way I’s are dotted and t’s crossed, lives in the poem. If the poem was first typed, the…

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Poem – Paved with apples

Again, it’s that time of the year
When the roads are paved with apples.
Yellow and red oxidized chaos,
Smelling wet and rotten sweetly.

Again, crushing them with my feet,
When I could’ve been eating them,
Apples. Now they aren’t for me,
Mushy brown and rotting sweetly.

Perhaps, when it’s this time next year
I’ll be able to catch the apples
Right into the hem of my dress
In time, before they rot sweetly.


Poem – Tree trunk

Hurry up, sit yourself down
Onto this chair that smells like
A rotting tree trunk that got
Taken down by a storm and
Nobody was there to hear.
Only worms and termites saw.

Shut your mouth now and resume
Inhaling the dusty spores
That will take root in our lungs.
Not a doubt, they will take hold
And will eat because you could.
Only worms and termites know.

Poem – Tightly packed sardines

Forget the niceties
And note the following:

While you are tightly packed
Like sardines in a can,

Witnessing the gradual
(But sure) disintegration
Of one another’s faces,
You don’t stop for a second

To recall what it was like
To realize that you’re caught.
Which makes sense because you’re not
The one steering this piece of…

But rather are taken
To the most logical
Resolution. Of course
Such is the mechanism.

Poem – How can I write about love?

How can I write about love
When the seagulls are circling this dirty patch of the shore,
Hovering above what looks like the carcass of a dove?
They circle but don’t soar.

How can you think about her
When the wind won’t stop blowing all the dust into your eyes,
When you would rather go than look upon that naked bird?
Better blind than hearing cries.

How can we dream about rain
When once hits, it always burns our precious bits of flesh?
When rain has been informed that we won’t leave and need no chains,
We always think it’s fresh.

How can she talk about breath
This easily, as if she’s ever known this rancid air?
As if she can relate…
As if she’s guessed it’s there.