008.3: Brett Finlayson:: La Isla de los Alcatraces 008

Brett Finlayson's poem adds more trappings of what we might initially consider typical prose. The poem is longer than the other poems this week and incorporates paragraph breaks. The title places us in a distinct and recognizable setting for a thriller of a plot: Alcatraz Island. What we get, though, is not an escape story. Instead, they (who are they, anyway?) yell "Walls!"—a call that becomes, as Heidegger states it, "a calling that names, a bidding which, out of the simple onefold of the difference, bids thing and world to come." Each sentence here is its own separate call, bidding a thing of world to come: walls, tide pools, herons, egrets, women, the dead, and the young. And underneath an eternal song persists: the world's song. Andrew Wessels

La Isla de los Alcatraces


“Walls!” they yelled. Dark ships lined the horizon like periods. “Walls!” they yelled and forced pieces of the island into the bay. (This work made new tide pools.) They filled the cavity with soil to soften the shock of brass shells. They planted flowering shrubs the colors of what they could not imagine and believed this filled the void.

They whispered the names of the dead. The sounds that left their tongues were barren depths. They hunted the Black-crowned Night-Herons. They hunted the Snowy Egrets. The plumes they offered to their women for hats and shoes. Their women pressed their bodies to walls and taller hands. Their savage nudity was not beautiful. They danced the dance of a thousand bullets.

As inmates slept, winds butchered the swoon of booze. In their dreams they smelled the sea, but also the perfumes of virgins. Their weeping was silent and filled the spaces between waves.

They made museums of shadows they could not shake, believing they faced the sun. Seabirds stretched over warm rocks. Seabirds folded their wings. Seabirds dissected the fires of stars. Seabirds called out to the dead, and the dead were seabirds, because the dead were whatever they dreamed.

A Black-crowned Night-Heron left its nest of red flowers and entered the tide pools to feed the mouths of its young.

Oh, brutal world! What cages you make for your own song!