“The James Earl Jones Effect” by Síle Englert, from Arc’s 2020 Shortlist

The James Earl Jones Effect

At the beginning of my alphabet, James Earl Jones stands
in front of a blue door on Sesame Street, like the first hint
in a scavenger hunt. The letter A appears anemic on the screen,
distracts from electric groan and static. I blink. When the power
goes out, B bubbles my breath underwater in the dark and a
clawfoot tub. James Earl Jones is a hymn, pealing awake
in my brain all night. The soft-wild letter G— still audible
over light pollution and permanent smell of pink on my fingers—
for girl. And girl at war with disarray, arranging books by colour,
music in alphabetical order. Girl picking the puppets apart,
wondering if their mechanisms mimic her own. This is her
language: mine. I hear James Earl Jones say I, and I speak
an inadequate sentence, incompetent mouthful of runes. But
I write the elegy that ice sings when the lake’s winter flesh
cracks in a thousand places. There is no alliteration in a hand,
no phonetics in a lip’s curl unless they are painted with letters.
James Earl Jones speaks percussion, a pulse tapped on the table
in time to my circulatory system. M, he says, a meager thing
mewing in foetal position on the bedroom floor. N, and no one
notices the words scrubbed red into my neck. Close to the end,
W means woman and girl both at once. I find them wrapped
around each other under the bed. They are singing the alphabet
song. Each with an X drawn on her palm to mark the place you
leave the pen. I write a eulogy for snow, white murmur where
two worlds meet quietly on the sidewalk. And we are almost there.
James Earl Jones is saying Y and he means why did it take so long
to find the last letter? At the end of this alphabet is the sound
of my new throat, burning with clues.

Rusty Priske on “The James Earl Jones Effect”

“The James Earl Jones Effect” shows the strength of voice, as we can easily hear that voice in our heads as we read. While looking back as a framework, this is not a poem rooted in the past, but rather introspection across a life, with individual time left aside. Language as entry point.

Síle Englert is a poet, fiction writer and multi-disciplinary artist from London, Ontario. She is the author of Threadbare (Baseline Press, 2019). Her writing has appeared in journals such as: The Fiddlehead, CV2, Room Magazine, Canthius, The /tƐmz/ Review, Crannóg Magazine (Ireland), Freefall Magazine and The Minola Review.

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