Tuesday, 12 June 2018


On the Syllabus

by Devon Balwit


What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s the feature…
                                                                                                             Rachel Simmons

Sign me up for failure 101, teach me
a cat’s cradle for empty hands,

a repurposing. Walk me through a syllabus
detailing loss: this being ignored, this

belittling, this rejection, this the brain
consigned to a shelf, this the body

constrained to the traces, a hard-used
machine not under warranty. All my life,

I’ve been cotton-swaddled, able to fall
the length of the belaying rope

but no further, always bailed out
before a night spent on piss-stained

concrete. Push me down, but gently.
Punch me where I am already

padded. Let me practice bruises
before fractures, being average

before the hard-scrabble of a tarp
on the banks of the freeway.

Thank you for helping me transition
into ordinary, for easing me down

from my pedestal. I have taped
your certificate to my wall, a surrogate

for the mantel, the well-dusted altar
of the bourgeois temple.


* * * * *

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and three collections out, among them: We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (A collaboration with Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic); Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders); and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found here as well as in The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, the Aeolian Harp Folio, Red Earth Review, Queen's College Quarterly, The Fourth River, The Free State Review, Red Paint Hill, and more.