Three Poems by Jonathan Ball


The Process Proposed

First Manifesto

When she spoke, she did not speak
but with exhalation of wires.
Twelve awaited another.

When the process proposed.
Left her nothing but
time-limited amounts.

So iron bought skin.
And she said, ‘I shall leak
oil and the wars for oil.’

Then a no-place gathering.
‘If I must be a muse,’ she said,
‘then I will be terror. And came.

Second Manifesto

A click as she shut
and then nothing opened
but into worlds of knives.

Seeking skin. She made
armour from glass and words
for glass and both shattered.

Letters in a heap. She said, ‘Burn
my letters. Melt them and write
with their nothing, their no-ink.’

She made hyphens, made me use them.
Pulled brackets from her back. Saying:
‘These in your throat and these around your neck.’

Third Manifesto

Where she touched, she bled.
She wore nothing but blades.
She did not believe in odds.

She exacted. Everything
had to be certain. Everything
had to balance on breaking.

I did not love her. She said,
‘You must not love me.’
Tongue on teeth, chiselling.

When it was over.
In the final line:
her breath, caught.

Re-printed with permission of the publisher from The Politics of Knives, by Jonathan Ball, Coach House Books, 2012.

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Jonathan Ball

Jonathan Ball, Ph.D., is the author of Ex Machina, Clockfire, and The Politics of Knives, which was recently shortlisted for a Manitoba book award. Visit him online at