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Debrief; Etymology

Alene Terzian

Debrief

 

Did you stand on a chair, a stool, a footrest?

Did you kick it away and think, oh shit?

Did you slip, steel your nerve, marvel?

 

Was there regret, frantic fingers pulling

at knots, feet (were they dangling?) scuffing

the hotel room floor?

 

Was there an exposed beam, a banister,

a rafter? Did you tie one end to a doorknob

or shower door?

 

Did you calculate the distance to ligature,

debate whether to suspend or drop,

snap neck or suffocate?

 

Did you know it would take 5 seconds

to black-out, but that you’d thrash

for 20 unconscious minutes?

 

Was your bathrobe belt the best

you could do, fibers easy to loop

at least twice? (was it more?)

 

Did you know he would later find you

on your knees, hold your head

in his hands for entirely too long?

 

 

Etymology

 

Outside the kindergarten class,

a skywriter forms letters

 

between skinny clouds; small faces

raised, are amazed by the precision.

 

Chalk-white and leisurely fading

is the bowing bridge of H.

 

Long after the second bell,

we stand, rapt and expecting

 

the voluptuous curve of O

this celestial vandalism, this tagger

 

dispatching the steady half moon

of P, and our breath catches; the kids

 

holler, hop like bunnies on one foot,

but we linger, watch the fourth

 

letter take shape. Recognition

rushes, and my daughter says,

 

“Where do words go when they disappear?”

Alene Terzian received an M.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry. Her first book, Deep as City’s Ache, explores the Lebanese Civil Conflict both environmentally and psychologically. She is currently working on her second collection while teaching creative writing at College of the Canyons. She is also the faculty advisor of COC’s award-winning literary magazine, cul-de-sac. Her poems have appeared in The Colorado Review, Cordite, Levitate, Media Cake, Rhapsodomancy, Duende, and Rise Up Review to name a few.

"'Debrief' was written after Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. In many of my poems, I wrestle with trying to rationalize suicide as it has directly impacted my family. I consider its implications and consequences, and instead of finding answers, all I'm left with is a laundry list of questions--interminable and unanswerable.

In the film, The Big Short, there's a great line: "Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry." 'Etymology' was an entirely truthful poem, and it essentially wrote itself the night of the skywriting experience on the kindergarten playground. I also wrote it in couplets because I think it's essentially a love poem to language, its power and its disappearance.