Wasteland

By: Jordan Silversmith

The great truths of the 20th century
Are not in books
They are not in museums
They are not in a blue guitar

The great truths of the 20th century
Are in the cemetery
They are in the killing fields
They are in the gas chambers
They are in mass graves the woods

The atrocities par excellence:
They’re happening now

If we put them in museums, the suffering
To have an authentic aesthetic experience
Or put them on a screen
And applaud at the end…
We clap a lot as it is, might as well do it for death

It’s quite a feat if you think about it
Taking all these people by the hand
And leading them away
So many millions of quiet hands
Entire families of fingerprints, gone

I read it in a book at the Bodleian
The cover was made of skin
And the pages were illuminated
It was an authentic aesthetic experience
I wanted to clap
But the silence of the library overwhelmed me
And my hands were full
So I cried instead,
What a book!
[applause]


Jordan Silversmith's novel REDSHIFT, BLUESHIFT (Gival Press) received the 2020 Gival Press Novel Award, and theur poem "Praxis" was chosen by Philip Metres for the 2020 Slippery Elm Prize in poetry. Theur poems, interviews and essays have appeared in SurVision Magazine, The Chicago Review of Books and The Vanderbilt Review.

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