Poetry

Take a Body and Replace It with Another Body

Daniel Borzutzky

Take a word and replace it with another word 

  This is the most miserable place I have known

Take a word and replace it with another word 

      This is the most miserable life I have known

Take a verb and replace it with another verb

      The river swallowed my face my mouth my body my arms
            my hands my legs

Take a verb and replace it with another verb

      The river loved my face my mouth my body my arms
            my hands my legs

Take a noun and replace it with another noun

      The authoritative body loved my face my lips my teeth
            my tongue he loved me

Take a body and replace it with another body, take a verb and
replace it with another verb

      The bureaucrat killed my face my lips my tongue my teeth
            he killed me

Take a blank and replace it with another blank

      The blank blanked my blank my blank my blank it blanked me

The wrong face might kill you

A certain change might be possible if the wrong face kills you

A certain change might be inevitable if the wrong face doesn’t
kill you

You think you drowned in the river but really it was the city that
killed you

You think you are the body that drowned in the river but you are
dead and you do not get to control the circumstances surrounding
your disappearance

Take a word and replace it with two words

      You do not get to have feelings about the circumstances
            surrounding your disappearance

Take a body and replace it with another body

      I do not get to have feelings about the circumstances
            surrounding my disappearance

Take an adjective and replace it with another adjective

      I do not get to have feelings about the circumstances
            surrounding your disappearance

Take a verb and replace it with another verb, take a noun and
replace it with another noun

      You do not get to question the circumstances surrounding
            my reappearance

It was a day he knew he would die an unspectacular death in the
river of venomous aloneness

It was a night they knew they would die a spectacular death at
the hands of the paramilitary nationalists who were armed by the
secret police

It was an afternoon they knew they would survive and be forced
to persist in a world where they’d rather be dead

Envy leaked from the mouth and vengeance dripped from the
eyeballs

Petroleum dripped from the teeth and plastic straws were shoved
into the nostrils

He gave his child a kiss on the forehead

He gave the bank a body that once loved him 

Parentheses       but in reality it was hard to have feelings

Parentheses       and in fantasy it was even harder to have feelings

He disappeared unspectacularly into the blank of the
American night

Take a body and replace it with another body

      I disappeared unspectacularly into the blank of the
            American night

Take a verb and replace it with another verb, take a noun and
replace it with another noun

      I bloomed unspectacularly into the debt of the American night

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018, among other works. He received the National Book Award in 2016. His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia won the National Translation Award.
Originally published:
September 20, 2021

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