John Lee Clark


would be if the world took
a fancy to the way
certain signs made images
and the world would try
to have things be more
like pictures in the air.

To begin with, there would
be only one season, winter,
because the signs
for the other seasons
do not give the idea
the way winter does,
our arms bent and shivering.

And that endless winter would
freeze us to death,
mainly because our house
would have only two walls.

It might as well be,
since all trees would
have five leafless branches
that never bear fruit,
which we would not need
anyway, since food would
only kiss our lips coyly,
knowing that swallowing
occurs on, not in, our throats.

Naturally, we would try
to live in spite of all this
by making fire, for us to drink
life, life from its light,
but it would be hopeless:
our flames would not
be fierce enough and would,
as our arms stiffen,
be too much like the sign
for waiting, which we would
be, waiting for death.

Still, still, we are happy:
There is only one way
signing can kill us,
and everything else it can
ever hope to make is life.

John Lee Clark is a second-generation deaf-blind writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. His writings have appeared in many publications, among them The Chronicle of Higher Education, McSweeney's, and Poetry. His chapbook of poems, from which the above poem was taken, is Suddenly Slow (Handtype Press, 2008) and he edited the definitive anthology Deaf American Poetry (Gallaudet University Press, 2009).