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Poetry, Summer 2007

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The Token Token by Mark Rudman



a traffic jam on a narrow two-lane highway headed

nowhere, unless Trouble has become an actual city overnight.

The last she knew, and that was back in the States, Trouble

City was a metaphor for emotions, was it not?, not places.


It’s a sign; it’s time; to return home.  And turn my notebook

into a confidant who won’t betray me without hesitation

for her own gain, a moment’s moment doomed to become

a loss that will dog her heels to the grave.  People.


Chained to routine like a dog to his vomit.  Oblivious,

already in oblivion for lacking the foresight to see

what’s not in front of their eyes, what’s lacking from

the hearts they steeled against what makes them human,


soul and emotion that flew out once they signed on

to procedures guaranteed to keep them looking young.

I must be dumb.  When a colleague, fellow

journalist—I hadn’t wanted to go to “rival”—said


I’d kill for your genes, I lost it.  The tape was still

running after we’d gone off the air and after several more

hearings I caught the stress on “kill.” 

Now I knew, whatever people used to say all the time


as part of an unquestioned accepted banter now meant

“I will do whatever it takes to get what I want.”

Blast of cold air; I shuddered.  And while

I knew if the other side got wind of it


they would place the sentence underneath her cosmeticized face and that I,

not she, would be the one called to say—what?

Cover up her words as well as the face and other parts

she’s already covered over?  If ever there were a no brainer


this—isn’t it.  There’s a limit to the number of lies

a person’s lips can utter without losing more than her job.

And it rhymes, goddammit, it rhymes with lies.

The choice isn’t mine.  The choice is life.


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Per Contra Summer 2007