Like trying to keep a river in a birdcage [Daniel Ari]

Language is the mother. Meaning is the father. Or vice versa.
But let’s not get diverted into the trance gender engenders.

Point being: expression is a river. A levee, dense-based,
steers but doesn’t stop it. We are divers in this water,

a kind of diver’s city, dancing in the flow, over the dam.
Administration’s obstacle is nearly laughable. The bars

stand lined like bones, tangled ulnas, in the river. So send
the words you mean through the passive ulna rubble.

We find ways to describe the play of water and sky.
Cerulean and cyan spaced amid clarity, sublimating.

That’s what this poem’s transcendent title meant:
the river runs through, and no bird stays unflown.

Each embryo of thought has potential to grow into what
we want to say. Thin, rusting rules will not defeat us.

In the great flow of language and meaning, they feed us.


Poet laureate of Richmond, California, Daniel Ari created the 2017 Richmond Anthology of Poetry, the city’s first. His book One Way to Ask (Norfolk Press, 2016) combines original poems in a new form called queron with illustrations created and curated in collaboration with 67 artists including Roz Chast, R. Crumb, Henrik Drescher and Wayne White. The book won the Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Award for design. Daniel has had work published by Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, McSweeney’s, Winning Writers, Defenestration, carte blanche, Thema, NonBinary Review, and many others.

Inspiration: When I saw news of the banned word list, of course I was upset and angry; but I also knew that what needs to be expressed will get expressed. Even if certain government agencies risk censure by going against another government agency’s no-no list, language is greater than any petty and ultimately futile attempt to stop the truth. And the truth, of course, is even greater and more unstoppable than language. The attempt of the administration to snuff truth by banning a handful of words brought to my mind the metaphor of trying to keep a river in a birdcage.



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