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BlazeVOX [books]
Cleaning the Mirror
by Joel Chace
(BlazeVOX , 2008)


08 October 2006


Between amnion & presence, I erased you. A question mark separated & signified. We became syntactical units.

But once, I knew you as earth-toned, dusted on brick walls. LTV steel plants closed, & you cried. Or, I remember you as slag floating on the Cuyahoga. Where did you bubble from? What metal ore was heated to extract you from purity? You smelled acrid and a caustic spike shot through my nose. You pooled an epitaph on my tongue. I spit venom & oxidized girders that modernists claimed would herald a new world order.

We laughed, but not in unison. I echoed you & became a reverberation. You echoed me & stole my voice by wavelengths. But co-opting was your strong suit. Like the summer months when Canadian soldiers crossed Lake Eire, you called them your plague & took to tapping stones with a beggar’s rod.

Perch & walleye fought the flowage in search of syringes: that one quick fix: a Sunday homily for hooks & night crawlers & Crisco & frying pans & Midwestern families’ acknowledgment that god had blessed them so.

Ohio, yes, I erased you. But please, await my galleons & arteries. My capillaries can barely reach my grandfather’s change purse & his last ducats. & he passed years ago. & that rattle was for dime store cavities. & I did not know you heard the chime of currency against car keys or dreamed to slurp processed sugar.

Ohio, your emerald necklace wreathed you in crayfish & water snakes, aphids & fire flies. Drunken deer sick with tics would stagger down your roads. We drew straws to see who would pet their insides, weave their intestines with butter.

There were better ways of growing we were unfamiliar with. Opportunities breathed, then strangled & wheezed. Topsoil. Fingernails. Pinworms. Oatmeal. Speckled skin. Hairless genitals. A pitch destined to kilter & sideways stumble. I know there is more, Ohio; perhaps, you will remind me.

I miss you. Call me if you get the chance.


11 January 2007


[I will write of you when I dream. Softened by backlight, our night glows.]

Midday sun painted you monochromatic. A perceptive eye teased subtle variations out of your urbanscape but was left unfulfilled. Industry reduced, at best, thick plumbs of carcinogens & a grayscale of smoke stacks to a chain linked fence urging me not to do something or other with rubbish. This was of little help in deciphering you, Ohio. I was perplexed.

As the axle shifted & the glare of repetition receded, orange & brown nuances entered your palette. In the curvature of rustbelt attachments, wavelengths enlarged & defined a depth that you thought would bring me solace. Such was not the case. Your variations only heightened my longing. I fell into clichés & regretted that I had constructed an idiom as tired as you. For a moment, I became you.

To combat our mutual decay, I will employ a new idiom that qua content means nothing but qua theory carries the freight of barges that navigate the narrow passages of the Cuyahoga in a desperate effort to restore economic viability to the dead. Some would call it a turn towards Heidegger & the way he shook things up linguistically for the sake of, you guessed it, cliché-busting.

So, let’s get on with it then, Ohio. Through your grated infrastructure, a brother clings to memories & reproduces himself through a series of chemical reactions. His machinations play out on a piece of paper hewn with specificity. Such is the foundation of context these days—always forming presence from absence, or something to that extent. Similar, I would assume, to unreferenced pronouns that float about in an effort to confound, an attempt to confuse but, indeed, provide a backbone for change.

The rust melted & salt bled you dry in the country gone urban.

Perhaps, it is nonsense. Forgive me, Ohio, I wanted to try a new way of interpreting the world after I spent six days inside of your belly.

Anyway, I suppose it is now your turn to visit me. I eagerly await your appearance out West. If you are in need of a bit of cash to purchase a flight, let me know. Miss you.


01 February 2007


My fragments awoke to dreams during secluded hours & became a confession: postcards littering the coffee table with cut & paste collages.

Mannequin arms strangle new American icons (foreign luxury sedans, advertising space, & apple pie) into a clichéd version of Hell (Jezebel eating pulled pork by the barbeque pit) chiseled into slate after the Fall; sewer rats pick detritus from their teeth & exchange the glances of those who know too much; ice slick, viral efficiency, & the slow lurch of urban crowds convinced that consumer-culture is a Communist myth.

An image as an image & nothing else. You almost convinced me, Ohio. How I wanted to believe. I even read books that told me: No ideas but things.

Women applied arbitrary systems to your aura. It was an attempt, I believe, to transform you into organic aggregate meant to function in concurrence with other organic aggregates. Perhaps, they sculpted you into a semi-perceptible creature of clay.

Ohio, you are abstract, but you are not a system.

Ohio, I will contradict both of us. I present you with dislocations & the remainder of my evening.

Tics burrow deep into mulatto skin, the Hocking drowns earthen embankments while cicadas ghost dance with scholars, a two-step on historic brick-ways, patchwork pants, a chemical reaction simulating an innovative version of Heaven (capillaries constricted until the heart forgoes definition), the trajectory of shotguns, & wavering fishing poles.

Ohio, if you are a system, I too will turn you into a sentence.

Ohio, I might exist only as a sentence.

Ohio, I might have failed you this time around. I understand if you do not write me.


04 March 2007


A polished surface stubbled & winter rested its frozen hand upon your narcoleptic skin. I sought words for the occasion, but, in the end, could only dream desire:

I wonder whether linear myths still serve a purpose during digitally layered evenings. I know you will laugh & tell me not to think too much, that the end is an illusion & things will work themselves out. All the same, I will curse you & become a taboo memory of my totem.

Particles slow into still life of circuitry & electrons, slouch on solid lakes.

Ohio, I want to mold disparate elements into a perfectly functional automaton, a golem for the 21st-century. But you sing to me a constant song from scripture: My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, & curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; & in thy book all my members were written. Have you forgotten, Ohio, that I am a heathen & do not seek to mold myself, but another crafted from silt, humus, & dust?

If my desires appear too supernatural for a man of little faith, it is only that I may flit a familiar tongue in unison with your customs. Before, I slurred incomprehensible; but now, Ohio, I want my language to be in you & trace the contours of your throat. Easier said than done, I suppose.


Today, I was told that the word has become three-dimensional, adding depth to the distance that separates us. We have become moveable text. As such, we must parse our content from our form, embrace style sheets & versions of reality that are more dynamic.

Is it too late to scratch letters from the clay tablet hidden underneath my tongue, Ohio? Are there other ways in which to alter language, erasing god to dead?

Store me in a stone-cut genizah somewhere in the Old Country, Ohio. Bury me with hand-written texts of a phlegm slicked tongue. Coat me in webbings & dust of the deceased. Fare thee well until then.


08 April 2007


I would hardly call this month the cruelest, but that debate appears to me to be, well, quite overdone & not in need of further discussion. I’m sure you will agree that we can leave those concerns to stodgy corduroy coats with elbow patches & anti-Semitic jokes told in a feigned English accent. You may then ask, “Why write?” Well, there are other matters that need to be attended to, but I can only save them by keeping them silent. So, instead, I will use words that were stolen from Anton & published as a pittance for Olga:

I shall have a flannel suit &, like a volcano, unleashed fire & lava on the Japanese. I, emaciated, with thin scraggy legs, walk on a spittle-covered floor. I shall arrive on Saturday. Here is the schedule of my stay:

1) I commit a grave sin.
2) Orchestras pass through the street, tumult, dances, & laughter.
3) & I shall go to Moscow without a spittoon, & in a railway car, oh, what a nuisance it is.
4) I consent to winter only if you become a mother.
5) At the first hemorrhage or violent attack of coughing I flee to Yalta.
6) I eat delicious food, but very little of it, for my stomach is repeatedly upset.
7) I shall leave Moscow Tuesday morning, having refrained from all excesses & not having allowed anyone to take liberties, in spite of persistent demands.

My darling, my pony, I have already telegraphed you that sharp pains in her abdomen woke her up & the brilliant success of some emancipated baroness influences flunkeys in waistcoats. Not a single decently dressed German woman, depressing bad taste.

Indeed, that is how you write a letter, Ohio. Perhaps, we should both take notes. Anton was no flunkey, so can’t use your tired, old excuses when I suggest you read a little bit closer.

Anyway, I have been tangled in parchment sealed with the symbol for shin & tilted toward the sitting room so that the Torah may spill out onto those in waiting. It’s how I spend my days now, Ohio; like it or not, I am encased opposite the hinges of my front door. Mine, only in that I am the current renter & past the 30 day limit out here in the Diaspora. If you want to seek me out, go to __________________. No need to knock, just open the door, kiss your fingers, & place them upon my forehead.




Individual "Ohio Letters" have previously appeared in slightly different form in 580 Split, Bat City Review, and My Name is Mud. Thanks to all editors for their support.




letters to ohio


joshua ware