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This author is a recipient

of the Sigma Tau Delta Award

Sigma Tau Delta Awarde


Sometime between the age of 18 and 19

He began to learn a new language

Unknown previously,

Not only to himself,

But to anyone. No,

That's not quite right;

He didn't learn it

So much as it bloomed inside him

Like flowers on an aggressive vine

Choking out all else,

Or an arabesque of frost

Obscuring glass. At first

The language came

Slow and clean and pure,

Devoid of errors in grammar or spelling,

But soon its syntax became scrambled

And sought surer footing within the rambling stream

Of time, and it's pronouns and

Point of view shifted like sidewinder tracks through wind-driven

Sand. Heat radiated in waves. Tongues struggled

To keep up, as did pens.

He mumbled or shouted with equal frequency,

Doing nothing in between. He talked in his sleep,

While in his dreams, he remained silent.


Once again

The silence forms a song

And the boastful fall splash of color

Arrives along with somber rains

Aching grays

Motionless blacks of clouds.

Lethargic and without pretense

We clog the streets

Dressed in dull green coats

As if thick brush

Taking root in the merciless concrete,

Signal lights blinking discordant red,

Street Lights flickering.

Take my hand

As if trying to lead me.

Take my hand

As if holding on

For dear life.


Navigating with muscle memory they move slow and sure across the I-74 bridge over muddy water thick and syrupy, its smell, that of dead fish, stunted by the cold. The new arches of the bridge rise, a steel cat stretching, as muscular and tense as the opening dusk. Bats twitch and flit through soft halos chasing the last of this year's bugs. A lone deer considers not her chances of crossing safely. The tires hum monotonously on the road, percussion without rhythm. From the stereo the Stones preach, Sway holy and profane, sacred and sacrificial. Trees are flaking blood rust. There's a smudge of muscle, blood and gristle on the pavement. The smudge of a life gone.


As if

The clanging of the warning bells

Triggered by the passing train

Were a starting signal,

He took off walking,

Moving in the opposite direction as the train,

Carrying nothing with him.

Nothing at all

But the language which blew through him

Like a fierce wind. The language, he finally realized,

Wasn't new at all;

It had existed even before the angry wreckage of

The universe was sculpted by the sure, swift hands

Of gravity into this whirling, abstract mess,

Was used to speak it into existence.


Sometimes he imagines

The birds



A split


before the blast,

And then,

The wall of air

Pushes them upwards

Just before

They burst into flames.

There are other

Larger fires in the distance

Coughing smoke that clogs the extremities of the city.

Meteors or missiles, it matters not.

The earth smolders.

Fragments of time

Are shook loose by

Magnificent blue-eyed angels.


Flash bright

And collapse,

Rivers disappear in clouds of steam,

Snake-hissing as they go.

He sits watching

Because there's nothing else to be done.

His body shakes

From crying. His head aches.

The earth burns in cremation or creation;

It matters not. Possibly, it is both.

His tongue is silent, and then he begins to sing. 


David Dowell was born in a brackish backwater of the Milky Way Galaxy. After wandering for quite some time, he currently resides with his fiance in Kewanee, Illinois, where he receives dictation from someone who “is not the ghost of Magritte.” He has been published several times in Quercus and has also published two books: Folk Songs of the Sixth Great Extinction Event and The Martyrs Can Barely Keep Up With the Demand. He is currently working on his MSW degree and a novel.


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