Robert Bal

 Three Poems

twenty twenty

we stay six feet apart now, but we’ve always been on our heels and kept. we’ve been witnessing from afar the uncreated, unbroken movement entered into again and again. we know it gets in behind the line, but we don’t really know it, do we, because it can’t be known, and yet we feel it.

there’s a feeling in the smiling cruelty of the exhausted politic, and there’s a feeling in the killing for the overhead, because there’s always feeling in the kick directed down.

but there’s a sound that isn’t one in any second nor the silence in between. there’s a sounded montage of all pieces kept outside and not let in to ever feel in place. there’s a puzzle there and it’s never going to be resolved.

this is the war of the pieces of performance. this is the vision of itself inside itself. nothing’s ever going to bring this stage set down. there’s no bolt of lightning ever going to lay it bare. it’s all right here with us, with all the set still standing. it’s all right here and no dramatic thing occurring. here we are, all held in endless correspondence till it passes on the way of nothing left to do.


a chariot still travels

it’s a trip that every effort amounts to naught. it’s a ride all bought and processed that ships no matter how you’ve lived or how you’ve died. the war we fight is solely for the purpose of our surrender.

there isn’t anything we can do to bring the end about. what we seek isn’t findable. we bid it closer and feel it coming but it never arrives where we are.

it gets unarmed by battle. it fights when called to fight but not to prove itself. everything becomes apparent as it carries itself on the way. it goes all ways with care and doesn’t know a single false direction.

the war around us rages still so we keep our arrows ever notched. they vibrate in the bow as we watch for friend the same as foe and foe the same as friend. when we hear the call to let the arrows fly, we watch the finger on the string release itself. we watch the work be done, then forget it, and watch the hand restring the arrow.

our choice is to push or pull but never move a thing, or be the nature of decision, be noncombatant, uncoercing, on the front line, fighting to the end, if only to begin.


in every ban

“you strip the flesh off from the bone and then you scream.” there isn’t any other way to get it until it’s given to you, and then you realize you had it all along. the scream comes after, and you’re free enough to go with all your sense of being enough, to move through the ears, past go, directly to the heart.

the voice is not a shameful thing. i have never seen a guitar become unstrung before a grand piano, or for that matter, a piano get all out of key beside a harp or cello.

there’s an infinite number of ways to sound without a skin stretched taut and beaten.

there’s a note in which we’re all unstruck. the vision plays on it, in a meter it shares with always more than one. there’s a heard refusal and immunity in the blood that sounds its death for feeling. there’s a need to die for nothing in this world of deathless voices of erasure.

the cop goes off in search of a place before the hearth like any other. we’ve scratched for cover for too long in fear of him. our skin has been too long sewn, now we belong out in the sun. we need to be seen and heard. the voices of erasure can’t be erased, but they don’t get to speak for us.

Robert Bal is a poet of the south asian diaspora. He was born and raised in London but is now an uninvited visitor on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-waututh First Nations. His work focuses upon the aftermath of colonial experience, the internalization of external forms of oppression, and the possible recovery from carcareal social norms.


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