Poem of the Month
Archaic Torso

By Darren Bifford

Published on December 1, 2018

We cannot know his ordinary head
except from photographs, eyes wholly terrified.
And yet his torso, bent over his bound hands,
is like a light flickering in an empty apartment,

illuminating: a table, some glass, itself. Otherwise
he’d be merely bare life, unlucky in foreign lands,
a common captured adventurer, hostage
to barbarians in a bombed city, almost a fiction.

Otherwise you could forget him. His body,
beneath vacant space, poised before collapse,
would not hesitate, tremble as if a living man:

he would not, from all the borders of his headless corpse,
burst like a dumb star: for there is no place left
where you aren’t seen. Your life will change.

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36

It all has to fit into twelve lines—a lesser sonnet— all that’s depicted at every instant inside the ...