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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Debrief; Etymology

By: Alene Terzian


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?


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.


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