Journalism In Verse


Viaticum [AUDIO]

in Audio/Culture by


“Nobody wants to read something that requires a thesaurus, dictionary, and an open Google tab. I’m glad you could afford that precious post secondary degree and you can use $5,000 words no matter the topic. The rest of us don’t function that way. You’re gatekeeping by denying basic information to those who need it most. If your queer Theory or feminist theory or race theory aren’t inclusive to the poorest and least formally educated among us, who is it for really? Are you here for the revolution or some weird self congratulatory masturbation session?” –Facebook post by Reading in the Shade from April 14th, 2017

I am 16 again, and no one is lonelier,
more desperate. Every day a sieve, words
tamped in to keep me from leaking away,

hard words requiring a thesaurus,
or a dictionary (no Google, then, or
its tab, too, would have been opened).

Do not police the mind. Neither the minds
of the suffering, nor the musing [etymology:
to stand like a dog with one’s nose in the air].

Do not police the mind.

My nose was up, nostrils flared, wanting
to whiff a way out. The poorest among us
have sensitive nostrils, attentive to anything of use.

Do not deny us our viaticum [etymology:
provision for the journey; communion given
to a person dying or in danger of death].

Do not deny us the stones we suck to forget
thirst, the hard words we crack for their marrow.
Do not dumb down. Give us our full measure

of Latin and Greek. Let us fret about what
we do not (yet) understand, mispronounce
epitome even though we are the thing itself,

scrounge [etymology: to rummage, to pilfer]
moments, on break, on the bus, on the toilet,
to puzzle them out, words our windfall,

our inheritance. Do not celebrate any kind
of ignorance, any cage [etymology: hollow place,
dungeon, spectators’ seats in the theater].

Pour words into hands that are empty.
Then you are a true ally. Watch
how we wield them to slip our chains.

Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Oyez, The Cincinnati Review, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, Trailhead Magazine VCFA, The Prick of the Spindle, and Permafrost.

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