a SONNET

Jos Charles
June 16, 2023
Domcobb / Alamy Stock Photo

“A dream’s charm,” Hélène Cixous writes, “is that you are transported into another world; no, you are not transported, you are already in the other world . . . It’s the cancellation of opposition between inside and outside.” Jos Charles’s “a SONNET” begins with the end of a dream—and with the speaker on one side of the veil, the beloved, having “left me, in an hour, a time, of dying,” on the other. The opposition between inside and outside is also a condition of linear time; to be here and not there, the hours stacked neatly—blockade against the past’s insistent endurance. But language, unlike linear time, refuses to hold at bay; like the dream, it cancels the opposition between inside and outside. To speak, to write, is to pour oneself into an other, to breach the self’s perimeter, to thin the veil. Language is where we might meet outside of shared time. In Charles’s poem, in the space that language opens in the self, the departed beloved passes through.

On a Saturday, the speaker and the beloved met for a first date. On a Saturday, the beloved left this world. The day’s name recurs like an outstretched hand, holding ever more, the beginnings and endings not ordered sequentially, but touching and mixing in the room of the word. When the beloved left, they left in the speaker their language; “Without you, imagine, otherwise the paltry sum of speech I’d be,” Charles writes. “All I’ve learned to speak is one among thy many-splendored names.” The speaker calls the beloved’s name, and the name calls the speaker forth into the world, to search, perhaps, for what, of the beloved’s other names, might be glimpsed there. To lift one’s head to this world, to be here wholly, “a SONNET” reminds me, is the very condition of the self’s becoming, the closest we might get to another.

Claire Schwartz

Listen to Jos Charles read "a SONNET."

a SONNET

i.

The episode, the dream, ended. I see the path and the path I stray. To speak thy name—purgation. Saturday,

at the hour the veil is thinnest, auburn, where the horizon is thinnest. In the hour my brother hath left me, in an hour, a time, of dying.

To even speak thy name. No witness possible for those of us listening to music in our cars on the 405 tonight.

All I have learned is to lift my head. That we met, a child’s shirt on, every muscle I thought pushed your face to grin,

in a kitchen, docs and jeans—I’d never seen anything so holy—and you spoke to me?—a woman, naked, devoid of every virtue?

The key you gave before the lock, you don’t have that much agency, you’d say. In my misery, it’s me, it’s me. Holy Saturday, you, exiting.

Echolalia. Beside nobody, in a queue like a book. A mutual friend messages me on Instagram and what is there to say,

we met, we met, outside a dream, we met? Saturday, first date, I repeat something cruel, rightfully, you stop me.

Echolalia. Or, acquisatory, speaking of Blake, out back in a scarf and tape, laughing at boys in boating shoes,

intellectual and evangelical, as all are evangelical, in the United States. Without you, imagine, otherwise the paltry sum of speech I’d be.

Echolalia. Out back, in a sheer top, many starred and open air’d, speaking the same shit, the sacred contains the secular, the spirit, reality.

Echolalia. Boys bristle at the crinkle of thy turning tape. Who hold me in me.

The episode, the dream, ended today. The saddened powers, we. All I’ve learned to speak is one among thy many-splendored names.

Child among children. Our self-same sun. I lift my head.

Jos Charles is author of the poetry collections, a Year & other poems, feeld, and Safe Space. She resides in Long Beach, CA with her cat.

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