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SurVision Magazine

An international online magazine that publishes Surrealist poetry in English.

Issue Twelve



Borges and the Library of Babel

No one believes me when I say there's a cello in my gut.
Even the spectacled mountain rat can't seem to find its way out of the jungles of

No one climbs trees anymore to hear the babble beyond, to test the waterfalls of Borneo
     and Sumatra for hidden glints of sound.
An excitable affidavit might be reintroduced into a forested way of weather where fog
     becomes rain when the temperature swells.

You ask that I be nice, that I return the tincture of benzoin since the canker sores have
     nearly broken.
You refuse my allotment of pain, calling on Borges and his magical library to draw the
     labyrinth into your own palm.

No one hears the violin in their throat, convinced it is an Arabic bee swarming in
     from Algeria. A dust storm in a hexagonal room. A floating staircase.
Even the night sky is shy of its own darkness.

I was given three potatoes yesterday at the farmer's market and instructed to make soup.
I was photographed hiding in my pocket a copy of Gustave Courbet's The Origin of the

As the cello concerto drew to a close, there was a curtain that seemed to open even as it
There was a fabric so thin it blocked out the past while suggesting the curvature of the

I went home and reread every story by Borges that I could.
I kept one word on my tongue, coaxing clues from the sores in my mouth, repeating again
     and again—world, world, world.

Jacques Cousteau and the Dark Lengths of Rain

Now we come to the dark lengths of rain unfolding like unrepentant seasons.
We think of water. We return to the sea. We contemplate that two-thirds of an octopus's
     cognition lies outside its brain, in each of its eight probing tentacles.

What might a difficult case of psoriasis say about one's repressed emotions?
How might one's ergophobia be traced back to the long hours his mother put in at the
     paper mill when he was five?

Yes, the world is breaking apart.
Of course, the air is thickening even as it thins.

Surely, the correct course of action might have something to do with opening one's own
     belly with a jackknife and inserting three crow feathers before sewing oneself back up.
Of course, even Jacques Cousteau had to admit that diving in the ocean deeps was a way
     to reenter the birth canal of his mother.

Now we ocean and wave and manta ray the winging deeps.
We confiscate the salt at the kitchen table of every so-called friend and sneak it home to
     press the granules into the tender places in our wrist.

I have been traveling far too long through this life and that, the way wolves roam Lapland
     in winter in search of sustenance and an outcrop of rock for sleep.
I can say with absolute confidence that my totem animal, the musk ox, preserves its
     energy in subzero winds by standing in a three-day blizzard as perfectly still as it can.

Robert Desnos Finds His Sleep Medicines Beneath Bachelard's Floorboards

Another night of Brahms, sea lice, and worms working this Indiana dark.
I could live forever inside the chest cavity of a fallen sparrow.

The world is far away, even in its closeness.
There is an owl hooting in the pine in my backyard, speaking in code only both the moon
     and I know.

Those nights thirty-nine years ago when John and I read Vallejo together until three.
The Mingus stories Larry and I share by email at one a.m. or two as if a train track in the

Say André Breton didn't write Nadja after all but found it in the startling breath of a
     horse chestnut.
Say that when George Seferis emptied his pipe, what he pounded out was not ash but
     fractures of all the poems he could never quite speak.

Shoe and tobacco advertisements become intervals of desperate Chinese characters in
In Indiana, I wanted every typeface in Cochin, but when I heard the word, all I could
     think was Cochinchina—an unfortunate exonym for part of Vietnam.

The guilt of colonialization is real, the giving of a name sacred as rock salt chunked into
     the possum struck at the side of the road.
Ask your owl friend and hear wind ruffle its wings as it tries to leave you for another tree.
     For the shivering woods of other words, less aggressive.

When Robert Desnos temporarily lost his voice one night, he hunted for it first in the
     brothels tucked among dark streets. Then in the folds of a croissant smothered in
     butter. Then finally beneath Bachelard's floorboards.
How beautiful the sleep medicines, he said, stroking his voice tenderly by kerosene lamp.
    How lovely the Mother Night.

George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014–2016), lives with his wife, writer Mary Ann Cain, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is the author of twelve full-length books of poetry and eight chapbooks, as well as a critical study on language theory. A recipient of various national and state prizes for his poetry, he spent several months in India in 1994 on an Indo-U.S. Advanced Research Fellowship. His poems have appeared in the United States and abroad and have been translated into Bengali and Spanish. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he taught for thirty-two years. His latest collection, Through the Silk-Heavy Rains, has been published by SurVision Books in 2021.

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