Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Word for the 21st Century
Her teacher spelled the word “water” into the hand
of the blind and deaf child Helen Keller while water
coursed over their palms. It was the child’s first word.

In the unbreakable summers,
heat muffles even the stars
in their stalled dark. No smallest
wind touches days that are empty
as the ears of the deaf, days colored
that pale red closed eyes can see.
Our hands are open but blank,
their rivering prophecies erased.

Heat pulls the lakes and streams
out of their beds and takes them elsewhere.
Songbirds fall straight from the dulled air
into dying flowers.
This time,
the blind and unhearing will learn
water not by touch but by absence,
in a silence whose name is thirst.  

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