“Line of Demarcation” by Jake Byrne, from Arc’s 2021 Shortlist

Line of Demarcation

This is a concrete poem that is strew across the page in deliberate chaos, only short phrases on each line. It reads: Line of Demarcation   			 My cousin was hit by a		train today  						A suburban utility vehicle 						A collective noun. A shattering of glass  						A transference	of 		Kinetic energy 				From one object to another 						There are equations that describe    The way in which     The once-solid  										Pane of 								   Automotive window glass  				  Briefly ripples, as a liquid does Before taking flight				   as birds     do 				        And lacerates a love		that keeps      The blood 	      Inside 								It is true that 	  Whatever does not kill you 		      Does    alter  you		irrevocably 					       There are equations that describe The way in which 	  What	      does not kill you 			        alters you 	  What		        kills you 			        alters you   only    a little more 	  In					  a very particular        Way Watching what	        alters people that 				        you	love 			         Kills you very			           slowly     It is a death that takes		         a lifetime  	  What		        alters you 	  In  The silence between						           hearing of  The accident and knowing  The person							   that 				     you		love	     is still alive 					      There are equations that describe 								  That     It is possible	to	alter matter  With forces greater than     The kinetic impact								of 						a moving	train 	  What forces		      matter 	  What			      matters 		Forces 	  What does not	kill	us binds us  	   In  The weak	force								of 						     A field called 						        Love 								      That slowly 				Kills us surely 						As  The future comes to meet our bodies  With  The velocity									of 						  A	       train speeding	on  Its track 	         Approaching now its final destination



Sadiqa de Meijer on “Line of Demarcation”

“Line of Demarcation” is a sparse and evocative poem. Its form takes the shape of a crash, of debris, and of the way in which a pane of breaking glass “briefly ripples, as a liquid does.” The poem uses the notion of physics equations to speak of how experiences of loss, mortality, and love take shape within us. It reads intriguingly on the page, but is also powerfully moving when heard aloud.



Jake Byrne is a queer writer, the winner of CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize for 2019, and his work has been published in journals throughout North America. He is a settler based in Tkarón:to, on the traditional meeting place of the nations of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, the Haudenosaunee, and the Missisaugas of the Credit River.


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