084.1: Justin Runge:: The Conspirator & Anonymous & The Robber 084

These three poems by Justin Runge construct themselves through an accumulation of images that are both individually discrete and also inextricably linked. Not one stanza enjambs into the following stanza. While at first this might sound potentially stilted, Runge uses this separation to create a distinct boundary between the poems' images. The first poem, "The Conspirator," opens with "A locomotive rose- / maled in mourning / heaves off steam." The stanza breaks, the image rests, and the poem pauses momentarily. The next stanza begins anew, simultaneously growing the poem and creating its own proprietary image: "It takes the last war / casualty through / the smoke remnants / like a somnolent / crosses the room." These images work together to create a single poem that we experience in separate moments. Runge asks us to process and contemplate each image on its own, lending the poems a weight and consideration that deepens their emotional impact, challenging us to figure out whether the "swordplay on stage / must be choreography, / must be red scarves / jetting from the chest." Andrew Wessels

The Conspirator


A locomotive rose-
maled in mourning
heaves off steam.

It takes the last war
casualty through
the smoke remnants
like a somnolent
crosses the room.

And for a fortnight,
the barn arsonists
took to night travel.

Some warning fire
to perforate dry sky.
And only a parasol
is needed to hide.

Burlap makes crude
masks for the accused.

The only woman
blackens herself in
and out with a veil.



Anonymous


When the hedge maze
catches flame, masses
move in waves away.

A rose, lacerating
like the folio’s edge
slid across the skin,
clinging to clothing
like a lifted kitten,
iconizes the war.

Armies used to call
clouds with mouths
to topple the enemy.

Then came cannons.

Steel for weapons,
and timber to raise
combustible Londons.

Swordplay on stage
must be choreography,
must be red scarves
jetting from the chest.



The Robber


A mask reformats
his wince, his skin
tone approximated
in bloodless color,
lost body dredged,
wrong taxidermy.

The marathoner
has no choice,
tosses his body
from a window
into the street
like the duffel
of an adulterer.

The search party,
sudden as seep,
walks the glow
of dirt bike light
through the trees.

The infinite leaves.

They’re applauding.