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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Poem: 557 words
By Charles D. Tarlton


To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein


How could anyone systemize 
		and have it still be, 

what the melody just barely remembers. 

You can have expectations all right, 
that say this isn’t the way things 


what the deeper meaning, 

the key the thing (read WORLD) 
is played in.

It was dark and the dog was outside hidden in the darkness, 
   a black dog against the night. 

Pause for the moment for the really 
big questions, 
		which are in order: 

	The Why? 
	The What, exactly? 
	And, the Who? 

Stop right there! I’d argue if we knew 


then we’d know the What and the Why. 


Old answers aren’t necessarily 
any better, 

echoing in different voices, voices 
rooted in old words 

	slow, chiseled in the rock. 

		(If you had to scratch everything in 
a treatise on clay tablets, 


two really might be enough. Think 

			of all the wasted 
words scattered in cyber space, 

I mean the treatises I’ve erased! 

The black dog makes us look for things when the darkness 
   is indiscriminate, lots of things the same as nothing, THE nothing.

It doesn’t have to be night 
for it to be dark, a bad mood will do it. 

What would you trade for a meaningful, an understood life? He asked. 
What kind of life? I said. 
          rich or poor, 
		      a long one, short, 
					could I be the King? 

Write everything up! 


The darkness, just a shadow really, 
you could see through 
	and the sky was still blue, maybe 
it was just a cloud passing, waiting to rain. 

	 But, I said to the Wizard who had the whole thing 
down cold, 
	  who had, do you hear me? ANSWERS! 

I’d have to say that all this 
means very little 
outside your thoughts, or mine (or anyone’s). 

Here’s my question. 
		If the world and life 
have meaning, do they mean the same 

thing to me 

and to the little black dog shaking there, making his collar ring, 
   wet, coming in from the rain? 

There is a light here, a match light, a flint spark, a mythology, a FLAME. 

Farther, farther away! 
		  Two, then the light coming down 
			through the water, from above, then 
			nothing cannot be 

O, if only I had a horn (and could play it like Nat Adderley) 
	I’d give this shit some meaning! 


Philosophers talking about talking 
setting the limits 
what anyone can say! 
		The girl in the parking lot 
handing out fish 

to hungry customers. And the sky was overcast 
hanging down. 

My voice varies, you see, the rhythm 
of the sentences resists 

I was looking through the weeds in the garden under the rain 
and there were asparagus spears 
peeping up, standing up, forcing themselves up, and then 
an ocean of mint, wild, 
                    running out of control 
an ocean of things to come. 

				  What do YOU mean by time? 

The same little black dog lies curled up on the couch, waiting sadly 
   for dinner.

As the leaves force themselves upon the trees, persuading them 


of nakedness demands penance, that they clothe themselves 
in fine raiment, 
                silken folioles, (pièces foliaire), 

“Who told thee that thou wast naked?” 
		The opposite dark shade of summer closing in, 
but I am standing here. What else could I do? 


Publisher’s Note:

Epigraph above is from the book Philosophical Investigations, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe (Basil Blackwell Ltd., Oxford; second edition, 1958); Part 1, Paragraph #19 (of 693): “And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.”

Link to the book in PDF was retrieved in July 2020:

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 4, July 2020

is a retired university professor of political theory who lives in Old Saybrook, Connecticut with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter, and a Standard Poodle named Nikki. He is the author of three books of prosimetra published by KYSO Flash Press: Touching Fire: New and Selected Ekphrastic Prosimetra (2018), Get Up and Dance (2019), and Carmody & Blight: The Dialogues (2019).

Tarlton has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and his work is published in: Abramelin, Atlas Poetica, Barnwood, Blackbox Manifold (UK), Blue and Yellow Dog, Book Ends Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, Cricket Online Review, Dark Matter, Fiction International, Haibun Today, Ilanot Review, Inner Art Journal, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Jack Magazine, KYSO Flash, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, London Grip, Muse India, Palette Poetry, Peacock Journal, Prune Juice, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Rattle, Red Booth Review, Red Lights, Review Americana, Ribbons, Shampoo, Shot Glass, Simply Haiku, Six Minute Magazine, Sketchbook, Skylark, Spirit Wind Gallery, Tallow Eider Quarterly, The American Aesthetic, The Ekphrastic Review, The Houston Literary Review, tinywords, Tipton, Unbroken Journal, Undertow Tanka Review, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

He also has a poetry e-chapbook published in the 2River series, La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu; an experimental prosimetrum in Lacuna entitled Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation; “The Rock in a Jar,” an extended prose poem in several parts in Gone Law 32; and “The Turn of Art,” a short prosimetrical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, in Fiction International.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Artifact With Steam (2019) by Ann Knickerbocker, ekphrastic tanka prose in the e-collection Get Up and Dance featured in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 20189)

Featured Author Charles D. Tarlton, with six of his ekphrastic tanka prose and an interview with Jack Cooper, in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)

Notes for a Theory of Tanka Prose: Ekphrasis and Abstract Art, a scholarly paper by Tarlton residing in PDF at Ray’s Web; originally published in Atlas Poetica (Number 23, pages 87-95)

Three American Civil War Photographs: Ekphrasis by Tarlton in Review Americana (Spring 2016)

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

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