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Letter from the Bardo

"words emerge and brush me around"

Published onNov 09, 2022
Letter from the Bardo

~Photo by Toa Heftiba:

I come in for a tall flat white 
and find a welcome table.
For seven minutes or seven hours, 
I dump the weather I carry in me.
I give up: my students who surge 
for grades and then they’re spent,  

stuck songs, dead parents’ whispers, 
medication lists, transit screed 
or places my kids want to be,
meals from twenty years of marriage.
I let them settle, trickster frogs and dissolving
crabs, on their backs, as they pop and gust away.

I come in for this ambient hive,
where I can float alone, the lull in a club room,
the big eye of a fish god on caffeine,
and try to name what I can’t say, pressing
the sonic, edges back into their edges
until they give way and swallow.

But there is nothing to draft, and less, less sense 
to make of where we’re headed,
through acrid scripts, through loneliness.
Words emerge and brush me around,
fortify my sabbatical vein and keep me
from going hoarse on beverages and bad news.

The coffeehouse is just space
to suspend myself in crosshairs 
of sound, to hold out for breath, 
to reanimate, to hover and cohere, 
to shuffle and accrue 
what remains, and return a swarm.


Kevin Roy is a professor of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland in College Park.  For twenty years, he has taught, mentored, conducted community-based life history interviews, and published more than fifty articles and book chapters.  He has been writing poetry for even longer, with his recently published work in Broadkill Review, The Shore, and Slant.

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