One Poem

Orlando White


I listen to the dark zero in my skull. It sounds like ink filling a white dot on a black sheet of paper. Sometimes it is a punctuation mark with little dark wings; it does not fly, blinks like an eyelash. I always wait for the first letter to appear on the page. And when it does, it shakes its fist up at me. At times, language wants to be dressed in a suit, white necktie. But I prefer a pause between ink and letter when words are silent, unclothed. The clock on the wall swallows a fly, and I see tiny legs struggle between the teeth of a number. Somewhere inside the dark, a shadow tries to lighten the dot on the letter i. The shadow rubs it against paper; it smears instead. This is what I like about language. The way one folds sentences, and feels the bones of words, letters crack; then unfolds them, tiny dark pieces that reconnect again on the page. I do not like to go past the period, because language resists death. Because underneath, bones, subject, and verb, wait to be revealed. The way one can erase milk to find calcium; the way an erased letter on the page dries into white. The top of the letter i is not a tiny round mark made by or as if by a pointed instrument. It can be a round letter, a blank zero, or an unwritten circle. Imagination is an equation: x and y can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. You were an unnatural birth, she said. I was a letter in the center of an o; born and pulled out, head shaped like a punctuation mark at the sentence's end.

Orlando White

Orlando White is Diné (Navajo) from Sweetwater, Arizona. He is of the Zuni Water Edge People and born to the Mexican Clan. He received his A.A. and B.F.A. in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His poems have appeared in Oregon Literary Review, Ploughshares, Red Ink Magazine, To Topos, 26 Magazine, and Ur Vox. He is currently in the M.F.A. literary arts program at Brown University.