Charles Borkhuis


the last line is often the hardest
unless it writes itself
at which point darkness
has its little moment in the sun
and then it’s closing time at the end of history

which is to say there is an opening
and then it closes
forever and a moment

mortality grips us with mortality tongs
here a pinch of compassion
there a yelp of suffering so close
to the cries of birth
or desire coming through the light
with eyes closed

one must take to heart the joy
of cooking and keep in mind
the mixed blessing in forgetting
which creates each new day
by stirring up old souls in new bodies
or vice versa and venturing forth
as the crow flies past our vision
into the ineffable

there is strange consolation in knowing
that what we know will never be enough
to silence the enigma at our core
and that in time we may be asked to revere
that about which we know nothing

still there is always the next something
to distract us like a gray tilted fedora
in a window or the last line of a poem
which is often the hardest
unless it writes itself


there’s another room inside this one
an anti-room with anti-matter people
sleeping or screwing on anti-matter beds

every so often someone’s elbow or foot
breaks through an invisible wall
then slips back almost unnoticed

I glimpsed one of them once
staring at me bemused
like a reflection on a dark tv screen

some say the void is not empty
it’s populated by virtual particles
that pop in for a quick bite and run

perhaps you’re unaccustomed
to the world’s indifference or phantom lovers
who annihilate each other over dinner

au contraire it gives me a certain curious comfort
to realize that I’m inhabited by beings
about whom I know virtually nothing

Charles Borkhuis is a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and essayist. His 10 collections of poems include: Spontaneous Combustion, Dead Ringer, Finely Tuned Static, Disappearing Acts, Afterimage, and Alpha Ruins. He was a finalist for the W.C Williams Poetry Award and won the 2021 James Tate International Prize for Poetry.