Justin Carter

Language Treaty

We feed the ducks at the local park, leftover

bread from my job at the sandwich shop, the

pieces so hard that we worry even the birds

will crack themselves. When we run out, when

we turn to leave, one starts to follow. Run,

you say. Later I text a friend: duck man, those

ducks were all over us. & this is how

miscommunication begins, the wrong word

accidentally inserted in another’s place. The

phone deciding on its own how our language

will work. Sometimes I try to write a poem &

don’t know how. I hit the center of my phone

& let it speak for itself: I am a beautiful person. I

am a beautiful person. I am a beautiful person. 












The sky heavy with smoke.

Steam, my father says.


It’s all steam.

The steel towers shine,


a gleam against our eyes.

At night—


a small city of lights.

Or at least I call it that.









Language Treaty

So often I want to start a sentence with if &

then follow the word with something that is

not a conditional. If tomorrow we wake up &

there is no sky, then the bees will make honey.

Though, see, even an attempt at the non-

sequitur results in there being some internal

form of sequitur. The bees will still make

honey because they are born to do that. The

bees will still make honey because they are

trying hard to understand the nature of the

changed world. We all are. This doesn’t have

to be about the sky now. If everyone fucks up in a

forest, then why do only certain fuck ups make a

sound? The sky is back & the sky is implied

there & the sky is vital because without it &

the air there would be nothing to convey the

sound waves of the fucking up. Tomorrow we

will wake up & there will only a faint noise

echoing from far away. & the next day,

hopefully, fainter. Someday it all goes away—

the noise, the waves, the forest.











JUSTIN CARTER’s poems appear in cream city review, Handsome, The Journal, Redivider, and Sonora Review. He co-edits Banango Street and lives in Texas.