The Newcomer


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R. A. Allen's poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, RHINO Poetry, The Penn Review, Gargoyle, Amuse-Bouche, Glassworks, JAMA, Amaryllis[Poetry Swindon], and elsewhere. His fiction has been  [+]

Image of Rendez-Vous, September 2019 issue

This dictionary defines "rooihout"
as a South African tree on page 2624;
"aasvogel," a vulture, is on page 2—
catnip for armchair etymologists,
crankbait for obsessive logophiles.
But for sheer phonetics, a melodious
contender from globalization's onslaught
might be Russia's "novichok" (newcomer).
What a ring it has, what a sound! It peacocks
its "nova"-ness in its initial syllables, and then,
like the triumphant dismount of a Soviet gymnast,
there's the wallop of that "chok" at the end—
a cellar door of a word if ever there was one.

But it turns out that novichok is a nerve-agent WMD
whose mere existence is a crime against humanity,
designed for stealth, synthesized to paralyze,
inflicted for revenge, deployed as an extension
of political menace. So don't be charmed by
its euphony. The Nazis gave us Zyklon (cyclone) B.
And the Sirens' songs were also sweet and golden.

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gerry Mac Donagh · ago
a bit too clever for its own good,interesting take on Novichok but Zyklon B'in fact_ always sounds sinister and deadly so wheres the irony and cyclone is not the same word but also conveys menace? so no charm was ever going to be on the cards there anyway, as for the sirens?i I think this last allusion a bit cheap and easy sorry for me despite the fact that its author is seemingly a published writer this poem does not suceed
Image of R. A. Allen
R. A. Allen · ago
gerry, given the hit-and-miss capitalization, the spelling mistakes, and erratic punctuation I assume you were high when your wrote this, or had imbibed too many a wee nips. Though what I can understand of your criticism is negative, I truly appreciate that you read it and had the impetus to write an opinion. "Cyclone" does translate to "zyklon" in German. Did you mean "where is" or 'whereas" for "wheres"? I didn't quite get "charm" being "in the cards," either. Please clarify. OK, I can see how one might think my final line's allusion (congrats on your spelling of allusion) was facile, but I need something short to wind it up. Ya can't hit out of the park every time. Again--and I'm not being snarky--but thanks for the critique. I figure lose most readers by the time they get to "obsessive logophiles"--of which I am.
Image of Prithvijeet Sinha
Prithvijeet Sinha · ago
This is especially relevant given recent Skripal poisoning. You have designed an intense and utterly realistic narrative.

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