Image is to Word as Brick is to Murder

Brick. Finally, this morning, without thought
you jot down the word
on a used envelope. Quick scribble
over the place where the paper was torn—the fold flared
into pointed teeth. Harmless
as the offer inside to consolidate debt. Harmless as you
deciding the word itself is nothing
without the image beneath it. To push past impulse
without question is to invite
brick to become murder weapon. As it did—as it does
every time you sit down to write.
Now it’s happened. Now you’re thinking—now to attempt
an unreadable scrawl. Deliberate. Like learning
to fall on purpose. Murder weapon
closer to Wordsworth’s one human heart of the image—
attached to the action of what happened.
Soon enough you move on
to mother—what the murder weapon erased
from your father 10 years before you were born.
Now ripped—how he was taken from dreams designed
by rifts in dreams. By domestic abuse.
By poverty. By alcoholism. By family. Like anything rigid
against the absence of Wordsworth’s rainbow,
what is possibly there
waiting for him to return home? Childhood a nightmare
of falling. Adulthood a long wake
for what fell. You return to your first impulse.
Jot it down again. Brick.
You wish your father’s name was printed beneath it.
You wait for some sign of him to arrive.
In tomorrow’s mail. The next. The evening news. The sky
on a cross-country drive going home. Now
you slip into the driver’s seat. Pocket the envelope.
Your young daughter strapped snug
in her cow-print booster
matches stacks of words with pretty pictures.





Christopher Shipman (he/him) lives on Eno, Sappony, and Shakori land in Greensboro, NC, where he teaches literature and creative writing at New Garden Friends School and plays drums in The Goodbye Horses. He is the author or co-author of six books and four chapbooks. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Fence, Iron Horse Literary Review, New Orleans Review, Poetry Magazine, Rattle, and elsewhere. His experimental play Metaphysique D’ Ephemera has been staged at four universities. Getting Away with Everything (Unlikely Books, 2021), in collaboration with Vincent Cellucci, is his most recent collection. For more information, visit

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