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Character Anatomy

By Amaranth Borsuk

Few things the hand wished language could
do, given up on dialect's downward spiral:
words so readily betray things they're meant
to represent.

Words tasted like other things. Type refused
to look machined, showed the strokes that
unbalanced, grew spurs against stress, each
swash, spine, shoulder, tail a fresh mark of
the hand that had no hand in it.

Arms broken, tissue mangled, the hand was
ready to try body's cant: a disappearing text,
past and future pressed into skin's plies.
Grammar's ultimate loss: surface, each
nanosecond, dead and reborn in microscopic

Take take take take take—that's how body
ensures its own survival. The hand couldn't
trust it long enough to decipher its cipher:
empty vessel with hands. The body had false
papers, could not be identified, clearly could
not represent. It didn't look like the pictures
anymore, would only sit still to be counted,
so the hand learned to trust numbers—
observable, firm—needed something to
count on without fingers or toes now that
fingers and toes were gone. Fingers and toes
wouldn't cut it.

Added: Wednesday, July 9, 2014  /  From "Handiwork: Poems" (Slope Editions, 2012). Used with permission.
Amaranth Borsuk

Amaranth Borsuk is the author of The Book (MIT Press, 2018), which explores this changing technology as object, content, idea, and interface. Her books of poetry include Pomegranate Eater (Kore, 2016) and Handiwork (Slope, 2012), as well as the collaborations Between Page and Screen (SpringGun Press, 2016), augmented reality poems created with Brad Bouse; As We Know, a book-length erased diary with Andy Fitch; and Abra (1913 Press, 2016), a limited-edition book and free iOS app with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher that received the 2017 Turn on Literature prize. Borsuk is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell, where she also serves as Associate Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics.

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