Landlocked by Jessica Goodfellow


Turns out I was wrong—the words landscape and escape don’t share a root.
Instead escape is from the French for the cape you shed in your pursuer’s hands
as you flee, while landscape first was Dutch, for the being-ness of land, a word
from the dyke-builders, culling land from sea: landship, like friendship and kinship,
in the Masters’ dark caves of thick paint. Nor, after all, are landscape and escape
opposites, antidotes, the solace I’d held on to. Turns out you can’t slip off the earth
like a cape, can’t flee for someplace else unseen and scape-less. Could the opposite
of scape, then, be space, that ever-expanding realm in which everything moves

away from everything else, flees, while I am still here, still life. The scapegoat
in the wilderness shares its root not with the landscape it roves about in, abandoned,
fled from, laden with the sins of others thrust upon it like a cape, but instead is rooted
with escape, though whose? Even when I die, dirt is where they’ll bury me—land
is where I’ll rest, or be said to rest, shrouded in its surface, my last-grasped cape my body,
the sin-bound scapegoat I am tethered to, as space moves cleanly and facelessly away.

by Jessica Goodfellow, from Mendeleev’s Mandala

Jessica’s blog

Editor’s Note: Repetition is the name of the game in this poem. Realization hinges upon the multiple meanings of the words escape, landscape, scape, and space. It anchors the poem’s narrator within a mental exercise that leads to the realization of non-movement— landlocked.


2 responses to “Landlocked by Jessica Goodfellow”

  1. Julie Carter Avatar

    I keep coming back to this in admiration. I’m a sucker for repetition and this just delights me.

  2. jhjalmerlind Avatar

    Superb poem! A carefully balanced and exquisitely constructed 14-line poem that works with two concepts and then merges them beautifully and breathlessly at the end.

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