2 Poems by William Bortz




I move pretty quickly when I am giving distance / between myself and the man with the gun / he who is giving more value to the ground he stands upon than I do / that man being anything that doesn’t have a definable face / a people, a tremble, a machine / I can keep everything I know to be holy in my mouth / names, fingers, stray strands of chocolate hair / my life exists in their thin and frail shadow / and I open my eyes each morning / only to kneel in wake of their breath / if you sculpt a monument from sand / that too / I will revere and call to be moist and tame beneath my tongue / if you call me to be, I will flow outward / and become a river—a terribly raging thing / almost always a pair of starving hands cannot finish what they wished to begin / almost always something is left half-alive and writhing / almost always / I once cowered within danger’s shadow as it stood, rapping at my door / but now I have become that which knocks / I called distance to be a sea / and drank an entire ocean / I have become that faceless thing guarding hallowed ground / I imagine a bullet is fired each time I take a breath / and it is hard to believe there is enough dirt to cover and fill every hole a pair of healthy lungs creates / in the same way, that could be said about loneliness / that there aren’t enough hands for everyone to keep / but even just the idea of the drawers between our fingers overflowing / is enough to decorate one’s self with holes / just as the sound of igniting gunpowder can drown out an entire religion / the shriek of air splitting / to make way for me will take back the name / I have ever given to any god  / and I never knew dying would call me to move the quickest / in its direction






that first person who saw the / Andromeda Galaxy / referred to it as / ‘little cloud’ / little cloud / breathing somewhere in infinity / orbiting around its own beating / so far off one could not spot the rivers / painting gullies in the palm of the night sky / grief / is observed in this same way / given a name that defines it as small / as something with the potential of being / both beautiful and fit to sustain life / fantastical & gleaming / an entire atlas of constellations / a gravitational pull driving to the center / a spectacle a race / buried too deep in wonder to ever become an idea / the opulent comfort of visiting from a safe distance / must one feel to know / simply by seeing I am / we do not remember the name of the person who first saw this / little cloud / only that, in the cool air of twilight / they could not turn their gaze upward / stare passed the atmosphere / and feel nothing any longer


William Bortz is a husband, poet, and editor living in Des Moines, IA. His work appears or is forthcoming in Okay Donkey, Oxidant Engine, Empty Mirror, honey & lime lit, Turnpike Magazine, Unvael Journal, the Lyrical Iowa Anthology, and more.

twitter: @william_bortz

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