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Featured Writer

Brian Clements

Prolegomenon to Any Future Poem

Manakin 31139 by Roger Camp

I wanted to write a poem that would end with the line “Now tell me. What have I lost?”

The idea being that, regardless of what I actually have lost, I really have lost nothing. Or that despite all losses, something important is preserved. As though being alive were the only thing that matters. Or, on the other hand, as though the sum of all loss is incalculable.

Robert Bly has a book of prose poems called “What Have I Ever Lost by Dying?” after a line from Rumi. As though there’s something after dying. As though something of the self persists. Or as though the self is just the rock, the plant, the animal that precede and persist. Or as though there is nothing in living that can be lost because nothing ever is had. It’s all lost already.

As though nothing belongs anywhere. Or everything belongs nowhere.

A universe of particles drifting out toward the edges of somethingness, fizzling off into nothing.

Now. Tell me.


About the writer:
Brian Clements is an American poet who is the author or editor of fifteen collections of poetry, including the anthology  An Introduction to the Prose Poem, volumes of poetry from Quale Press, Texas Review Press, and Meritage Press, and of some unique and compelling projects online.

Image: Manakin 31139 by Roger Camp (contemporary). Fine art photograph. No technical information specified. 2021. By permission. Roger Camp is the author of three photography books including the award-winning Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002 and Heat, Charta, Milano, 2008. His documentary photography has been awarded the prestigious Leica Medal of Photography. His photographs are represented by the Robin Rice Gallery, NYC. His work has appeared in The New England Review, Southwest Review, Chicago Review and the New York Quarterly. More of his work may be seen at

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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