Dore Kiesselbach

Two Poems

The Birth of the Syllable

You said I should write about the fact that I’m coming to the end
of a Maya 52-year cycle. I’m not connected by blood or memory
to that story-drenched culture but it does populate me at the idea
level, like spray at the top of a fizzy drink. Over more
than a century, some of the world’s loneliest and most gifted
people made it comprehensible enough to us that I think
I understand what the countdown period in the cycle is for.
The graphical unit of sense was a square that first contained
a single eye-word. I’m getting it wrong but cultural pressure
over time forced several logograms into the same quadrilateral.
Integrating them was an art passed down person to person
within a scribe caste that exists today, switched to Latin
by those friars who didn’t kill them for their love of pictures.
A 16th century handscript long absent from scriptoriums
of Seville is still fluently used by indigenous people who can
neither read nor write except in the stolen tongue of Christ.
They already know the world didn’t end as it was meant to.


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