Calvin Olsen


I feel nothing
flowing through my veins—
even the blue inside my wrist
subdued, introverted
for the first time in ages.
I’ve been carving a narrative
into this diner table
with a fingernail. It’s softer
than others (the table). I thought
I was only tracing
but I looked down (don’t look down)
and found this gouge.

The underside of trees
no longer living grows
porous first, then hardens
outside in. The coming cracks
don’t split haphazardly—
two notches turn into a break
and then a mortise camouflaged
in moss. Each slot its own
event, each making a sound
and getting to know its now-bottom.

So many words—border, limit, terminus, extreme—
are cliffhangers. What lies beyond is anybody’s
guess. There is order here and not there,
windows here and not there, a person here and not
here (there and not there). You draw your own map
and it rains: soon enough what was a river
is still a river. You dare not touch
the paper, knowing it will bleed, blur,

tear without noise, and not burn.

Calvin Olsen

Calvin Olsen is a poet and translator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Asymptote, The London Magazine, Salamander, and many others; and his translation of Portuguese poet João Luís Barreto Guimarães’s collection, Mediterranean, is forthcoming from Hidden River Arts (Philadelphia).