Orlando White

Ars Poetica

He gave me a book and I opened it. The first line I noticed was, “The child with the
blank face of an egg.” Then, I felt my face erased to its skull.
There was a missing space. So I peeled off a piece of a letter from the next page. And I
nudged it carefully between the i and j.
She said, “How does it feel to have your head stuck in a zero?” Silence in a moment is
imagination and I replied, “It is my halo.”
I erased a zero and it appeared in someone else’s thoughts. The sum of a zero and
zero is zero. I wrote it again; this time it made sense.
He said, “We raise it to the lips of the nearest ear.” So, I began to open books, listen
for ink boiling, the scent of words, coffee brewing in my ear.
I watched the clock as if reading a sentence. The numbers were letters. The short hand
was a subject, the long hand, a predicate, and the seconds, a verb.
We both stared at the ceiling. I said, “My eyes feel as if they’re inside cups.” Then she
said, “Shall I pour your eyes back into your ears?”
Language structures what we see without saying it. But I began to pull bones from
sentences, and rearrange letters into skeletons.
I heard a circle as if it were a clock. It did not tick; made the sound of an insect: it was
a number in the shape of a cricket.
I opened an envelope addressed to me. I pulled out a blank sheet of paper, unfolded it. In the letter: no message, no sender’s name, just a white space.
“I like that you exist,” she said. Like the lowercase i, my body felt present on a page:
fitted in a dark suit, white necktie, and inside the black dot, a smile.
But it was the way her skin felt as she dressed into a black outfit. The way her body
slipped into a long dark dress shaped like a shadow.
He picked up a stone; held it to his ear. Shook it like a broken watch. He opened it,
and inside were small gears, shaped like a clock.
I am a skeleton, a sentence, too. Although like you, I am neither a meaning nor a
structure, just silence in a complete thought.

Orlando White
“Ars Poetica” first appeared in To Topos Poetry International, Fall 2006.