205.1: Barbara Tomash:: [non-] & [a-] & [re-] & [twi-] 205

Over the last eight weeks, I've been working closely with students from China who are learning English. Together, we discuss English words as if they were atoms in the Large Hadron Collider. Smash apart a word like "submarine" and you get "sub" (below, beneath) and "marine" (involving water). Blow "agoraphobic" to smithereens and you'll find "agora" (a forum essential to public identity in ancient Athens) and "phobia" (fear of) in the dust pan. This week, the poems by Barbara Tomash develop their lyricism through the particles of our language. Thus "[a-]" evokes the "pericarp of a peach" without "center, stalk, or stem." In "[re-]," the function of [re]petition suggests the markings of flood waters on the outside of homes. These poems [re]turn me to those moments with my students when everyday, worn-out words become suddenly spooky and magical again, when in the "thin film of speech sound" every "germination is possible." Ryan Winet


to talk freely in active vegetative growth
            of material being


lacking a flowering that is not fictional

            when dissolved failing to do what ought
                        to be done

            refrains from interpretation


negation of being
            all the postulates of Euclid

when melted
            negation of being


a combination of nine instruments or voices
            different, fraternal

at loss as to what to say, think, or do as run-off from a farmland

            not any not one nobody


            when exposed in a thin film of speech sound

germination is possible


the pericarp of a peach / (in bitterness of words) / whose thin outer
covering / no center, stalk, or stem / branches joined end to end / (in
sharpness of words
) (in error) / where the needle does not dip / spiritual
indifference / all senses develop from the sense of around

[re- ]

flood water
the marks on the houses the height of

                        a lapse of time            from last to first
            in arteries and nerves            in evidence of

a reverse process
in thought talk or memory            as after a lunge

                        as land from the sea            as paper into coin
            an angle bent back            towards an earlier question

or a stroke in rowing
to become harsh or raw to become active again


the angle through which
                        a thing is twisted

            atmosphere and its dust

threads pass over one and under two
                        ethical and diagonal lines

            full light a double thread            to bring forth

the movements of
            an ascending column of air