Wex in Totus Taggle

By Owen Doyle

Featured Art by James McNeill Whistler

Words in an old notebook
prove (I was twenty-ish, then)
that mind-mud and dismally
tangled brain material
have causes other than old age
or illness. At the time,
they might have been explained
by the rum or beer in mind-
blowing excess the night before.
I don’t remember.

But surely those episodes
of binge and babble
are far outnumbered
by drier spells of helplessness:
me, frozen
over the neat rectangular form
of a blank page, compelled
to write totus to avoid
writing nothing.
It’s reason enough for terror
or self-pity, the thought
that those very things—the booze-
blasts and blackouts—were then
and are now the efficient
cause of wex and taggle:
furrows of gray matter, tilled
for art and wisdom, laid
waste, and the flood of those young
insults cascading still. But no,
I’ve heard that it’s very common:
this empty gaze, the pen loose
between a finger and a thumb,
its tip hovering
over absolutely nothing. And so,
as tragic as it all may be, finally,
I won’t let it bother me too
too much. Why taggle over wex
totus? I’ll pour myself a glass
of wine and see
what comes spilling out.


Owen Doyle’s poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, The Formalist, South Coast Poetry Journal, Constellations, Ibbetson Street and elsewhere, and he received a Firman Houghton prize from the New England Poetry Club. As an actor, he has performed with many Boston-area theater companies, including the Huntington Theatre, New Repertory Theatre and The Poets’ Theatre. He currently lives, writes, and performs in Paris.

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