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© 2019 by semicolon, all rights reserved


All written and visual work is the intellectual property of the attributed author/artist.

William Bortz

Not About A Gun

in a moment of vulnerability / I bite my cheek and taste metal / I give my body to the cool breast of night / and what miraculous things it does to the starlight buried in my dark

the sky weeps while no one watches / morning is painted with streaks of red stretched lazily toward the edge of the horizon / it is tired / and like us it has avoided pouring out into some poor soul’s lap / I see this and wonder / who could ever want to pierce me / to create a hole / a sleeve to put an arm through / and I am reminded how some have such a vast reservoir of hate / it could contain the whole unfragmented sky / God—I am exhausted / from reading memorials / from keeping my head above the surface of some unfamiliar sea of grief / what a strange pain to feel your lungs expand / close to bursting /  with the air of someone’s last breath / if we lit candles for every person who heard a pop in place of a goodbye / and tasted gunpowder on their teeth in place of their lover’s lips the sun would blush / oh how red it would become at the sight of how small it truly is / in light of the light that has been taken / in light of the light it couldn’t lend to replace and fill each darkened space / I am moved—profoundly / by how much some people’s arms can hold / by how many crumbling bodies they can keep together at once / and, as the sky, remain strong / until it is safe to press into the chest of twilight / and empty themselves

William Bortz is a husband, editor, and poet who lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Empty Mirror, 8 Poems, Folded Word, honey & lime lit, Oxidant | Engine, Okay Donkey, Unvael Journal, The Shore, and the Lyrical Iowa anthology.

Shifting Gold to Virtue

see the belly of night

distend after taking in another

body—the immediate response

dipping down to set

shimmering capsules on

shouting tongues

give me permanence and I’ll return

it gilded—more tangible

I plant flowers in my garden

and refuse to open my eyes

until they are blooming

I place the petals in my palm

and grind them into the skin

how badly I long to become some-

thing vibrant. to grow into

something that can glow against

the darkness encasing it

I am trying so hard to hold

the stars in my teeth without

crushing them. to not see

every shimmering thing as