Orlando White


The zero is not a circle; it’s an empty clock. And the clock is an o which rolls to the other
side of the page. But the c stuck between the b and d eats itself and the page will taste
how desperate language is. If you peel a sheet of paper, you will find letters who have
eaten themselves: the a who chewed itself until it became a dot on paper and the z who
ingested itself until it was a tiny line on a page. Within the white spaces they have
become inklings, miniature dark skulls, and black specks on paper. But they still move
like the tiniest gears in a clock. And their bones are scattered like dry grains of ink on a
white sheet. I think of their deaths: the stiff face of a choked letter, the broken jaw of an
e, the throat of an f slit open, an i swallowed up to its torso, the dot bitten from a j, the
letters of a sentence removed with teeth. A sentence dipped in bleach until it becomes a
skeleton, the bones thinning into calcium, the sockets of the skull discoloring into pale
ink. And you will hurt it more if you try to slip its bones back through the flesh of ink or
dress it back into its dry black clothes. So let the lower case i be a body under the dot: a
naked letter on the page.

Orlando White
“Quietus” first appeared in Oregon Literary Review, Summer/Fall 2007.