Curse (Babel)

What barbed the curse

was not the sixty-

nine new languages per se;


was instant fluency.

The way we spoke that day


couldn’t know the slow

labor of agreement,

sound bound with sense,

by which we grow

into what we’ve meant,

that difficult balance.


What we’d become

were mere tongues: rash,

quick to blame,

given to gibberish

like children

or fixed on distinction—


but on saying hell-bent,

the words stabbed at

like a best guess.

We mouthed our present

tense to an inarticulate

hum, like locusts.



Steven Reese’s most recent book of poems is Excentrica: Notes on the Text (BlazeVOX, 2017).  He teaches at Youngstown State University in Ohio, and in the Northeast Ohio MFA program.

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