Treading Water

I’m sure you have experienced, at one point or another, the feeling of something being so powerful that you barely have the words to describe it. That’s what just happened to me as I read the poem “Foreign” by Tom Blackford. I was just hopping around the pages of 18/19, waiting for something to grab me, when this poem hit me out of nowhere. And, yes, after reading it, I kind of felt like I was merely treading water, completely unable to direct myself or find a way out of an ocean.

This poem is abrupt in the best way. I could not have imagined how strong the last few lines of this poem are, and I could not have imagined how perfectly they tied the rest of the poem together. There’s not much I can say—I certainly can’t speak for this poem—so the best I can do is tell you just to read it yourself so that you might experience it as I have:


The pen is foreign to the paper
the Hindu student writes in his room.
His feet are foreign to the stripped floor
as he bows his head, praying.
The words that pour from his lips
are foreign to the air that eats them
before they can be heard.


The sun was born to itself. It
is foreign to the earth it burns. The earth
foreign to the moon it pulls down. The moon
foreign to the tide it breathes into the sea. The tide
foreign to the scaled fish that flow in and out with no home.


The finned creatures are foreign
to the glazed net that filters them out.
The chipped skillet is foreign
to the fire that chars its bottom.
The Hindu scout that eats this meal is foreign
to the land that presses against the balls of his calloused feet.
The unseen bullet is foreign
to the young boy’s mouth, which it enters, en route to the brain
where it explodes.


The dead soldier’s brother prays in an isolated room.
The tear is foreign in the land of his cheek
but writes its relatives to come.



autumn, Editorial Asst.


You can get a dollar off if you order a copy of the Dodge from now until September 1st, when our online submissions platform goes live (we should also have online ordering of issues optimized through Submittable as well). This offer stands for any back issue and our current issue, #52/53 (making back issues $4 and our current issue $11). Just make sure to send in your cash or check with either a note saying “autumn sent me” or a letter in response to one of the hits.

About artfuldodgewooster

Ohio based literary magazine, now over twenty years old, still in print, and gradually spreading across the digital world. Official Website:
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