I sell my body to free myself, she says

somnolent Devadasi girl with eyes

like an ox, her red-and-yellow sari

is made from lac and safflower. She was

sold off the farm at twelve to men who

slid open her quarters like a bread cabinet

who do not look god in the face because

she is Maadiga, that which cannot be seen

so glorious is her immanence, like

each star was a torch passed on to her

who looks up at the night for warmth

from trillions of long ago lights. Suffer

O ox-eyed Yellamma, while men pay

to grind your fine grain into sand.

Whoever cannot believe can swear to god

for a covenant that justifies your ways

to the lustful race of man buying his own.

R. Charboneau

Mine Says To Me


Thought is the thing you hear while you’re reading.

This, right here, is a thought. Abide it this moment.

Consider what it says to you apart from my words.

It is your own poem overlaying mine, like latticework.

What is it saying to you about me? Such a thing

I’ve been curious about for a long time now.

In what ways, I wonder, is it like my own?

R. Charboneau

Studies in Aluminum V

Happy New Year’s Eve!

This is part of a series I’m working on that looks at the history of aluminum, from its discovery as a metal to its mass production. The poems are connected loosely by their shared themes, but don’t have to be read in any order.

The “You” in this poem is Napoleon III (1808-73), a very interesting, tragic figure in history, who gave Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville unlimited resources to experiment with aluminum manufacturing. Napoleon was hoping to get aluminum armor for his military, but it was not meant to be.



Silver from Clay


In 1855 a kilogram cost two thousand francs,

or the average household salary for that year,

or roughly twelve ingots arranged pyramidal

and garnering rude skepticism from social elites

in the cast iron nave of a Gothic whale’s gut.

Continue reading “Studies in Aluminum V”

Letter to the Kurds


To Kurdish peoples of undisclosed lands

that were yours by right of blood, the kind

that flows and the kind that spills out.

I write as someone who matters nothing.

Those are the ones who will tell you the truth.

The others will tell you the opportunity

just wasn’t there yet. You had no idea

liberty took so long, not when it rode in

on the foaming Gulf, screaming across

the dusty skies of sun-baked Kuwait.

Continue reading “Letter to the Kurds”