Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


Book Excerpt: CEASE


to keep the peace

we need a wall to fall to our knees before

to all things an architecture each body its own boundary the air

deliberate so many moves between one opening careful to keep the wall

clear of camouflage                   clear in its threat

so many patterns have holes a hand an arm a child        netting

a wall will not allow less than enough guard per prisoner

head down & hungry your skin I remember as

against not over            the wall in place of the blood


the wall after all made of water the gulf

a blue we could             touch on both ends

given clearance to return what’s left of the body now

bridge simple arch geometry of the circle spanning come

cool my tongue this light-well opening internal space to

the space that opens into it       wind eye the flood

made our bodies           a levee earthen gnawed away


something there is that does not once but it

no longer holds the tongue of

the fire roars for water but boundaries now

are made instead of oil  the fire spits & splits

why set the self aflame when    we can do it together

the whole world            hanging in the air in all directions

the direction to go straight on at the end of a movement without pause the wall

so simple in war            enough dirt to go over the top singing finish me first


a wall to run along your fingers to let bear the weight

of execution on one side stilled now the other a garden

interior courtyard more insects than fruit both segmented

sugar does not obey the wall it wants a thousand mouths

yours mine from inside the fruit the strain release me the strain

deserter the wall black juice only skin


around every corner we met the nameless

wall sometimes with head sometimes with spit too

beautiful to be

left alone some dead prefer stone to sea we

imagined snow here & there the wall less

erasure a          thing only the living desire

rest in ownership          property

according to water is rhythmic 


trust the wall                it is not a window

hole in the stone you cannot go

through the view from the wall is the wall

rope slipping around rope a new            knot

each time the rope goes through

light is not out the window                    here it is heat

glass is domesticated two private dwellings separated by

a bad mouth


an earlobe a sparrow sunshine the only way out a big fat bombglow

there’s a lesson for everything you’d ever want

to make or destroy a lesson in placement a lesson in timing a lesson in pressure a lesson in too much a lesson in longing to be let be ignition what was it anyway

the wall so light now so much sand

you’d think no it can’t   go on

& on an on & on like that no blue          at the tip of it

no blue to undo nothing to see no other side so far as the eye can see


Copyright (c) 2019 by Beth Bachmann. All rights reserved. Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and the author of three award-winning poetry collections: Temper, Do Not Rise, and CEASE. She serves as writer-in-residence in the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Vanderbilt University.

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