what is this geologic crawl
but a time of large and small adventure
a time to “do” things.
something the dinosaurs couldn’t manage
in their 140 million-year “dominion”
why all that excited Cambrian hustle
an efflorescence so sudden and bizarre
it made Darwin a stammering dyspeptic
whence the animating spirit
flatter the fuck out of the trilobite
then walk away?
don’t mean to pry.
Brontosaurus. what’s that shit about.
flintstone burger. oil company emblem.
huge tooth gouged out of the hillside by the interstate.
Trilobite’s like; seriously?
chair in a room, lights out
door closed, closed till it latches
we are all asleep
all around the house
behind the door
inanimate chair in the inanimate dark
something must disturb the air around the chair.
that’s the intuition.
not nothing. something.
if nothing, then there is your horror
we can’t intuit nothing
that’s been a longstanding problem
Dear Jesus take this from me
take away my jughead childhood reverie
a chair in a dark closed room
the door latched
dark air undisturbed
for as long as you care to imagine.
I reach across the coffee table
yeah yeah yeah
lever the pizza to my expectant face
yeah yeah yeah
take some care not to let the granular salt
roll off the surface of the pizza slice
that’s how much I salted;
grains are layered and unstable
they may roll off
it’s a lot of salt
I read a comic when I was 10
some ships discovered mid-ocean salt mountains
later a princess said
“this is the best meat I have ever tasted!”
there go the eons.
asteroid? come sailing in
our eager telemetry means you can’t surprise us
but we’ll still get the torn clouds and the sound
and that will surprise us.
a spielberg boy will pause mid-pitch
track your progress across the sky
his hand raised to shade his eyes
though he’ll be wearing a baseball cap.
stir the laundry on the laundry line
give us our Rockwell closure.
you shall be as a fragrant spring breeze
or the metal joy-smell of sprinkler water
on the hottest day of the year.
man’s best friend
is an expensive afghan hound
afghan may mean drone strikes somewhere
here in the u.s.
afghan means a sleek-looking hound
at the end of a grasped leash.
aw look at the doggie
look at all the doggies
aw man’s best friend
you can’t have a dog
you’ll never take the dog out for a walk
aw yes I will, I promise
and even if you do
it’s an idiot’s game
man’s best friend spends every minute
straining against the leash
does anyone notice that?
man’s best friend wants to run
sniff pee-pee at every bush
make a little pee-pee himself
and take off running again
“whoa, that’s a tall order
i want a best friend, sure
a loyal yes-companion from the ranks
of the docile lower animals
but this is man’s dominion
we made it to the top
climbed here with our thumbs
where the hell are your thumbs, little doggie
you’ll be at the end of my taut leash.”
he doesn’t know he’s an afghan
and the pricey Shih Tzu’s id is indistinguishable
from that of the three-legged living rag
that nervous guy sold your neighbor
the Shih Tzu looks at the three-legged rag and thinks
not bad at all
the dumbass Shih Tzu doesn’t know from dominion
it has been bred to walk from room to room
“interesting breed. what are they for?”
to walk from room to room
none of these best friends know what they are
they just want to screw each other
and eat and make pee-pee
is that such a big deal
you get to do that every day
or nearly every day
can your best friend
maybe take a crack at it, asshole
loosen that leash.
I said loosen it, jackass
i will knock you down
aw look at him strain
aw his little face
he doesn’t know he’s a prisoner
you dog wants to run
aw man’s best friend
he wants only to run!
but after maybe 30 self-congratulating minutes
you’ll be fatigued from hurling the slimed ball
in its plastic “Lower-Animals-R-Us®” claw
let’s get back to the condo
and leave our companion alone
back to the kingdom of pain, I mean man
back to a blanket in a basket
and a synthetic Purina snack of glued brown powder
shaped like a cartoon bone.
universe, omniverse, reversible four dollar belt,
you bore you bore you bore you bore
great endless room, bales of fire
holes to nowhere, mystery moons, rocks with rings
synchronicity, curved space,
twelve million miles a minute
doesn’t sound so fast when you put it that way
maybe the whole thing is phony
not wondrous, phony
just another car wreck
the physics of flying glass
“a comet is a ball of ice”
will you just shut up
does that look like a ball of ice to you, moron
don’t you ever say that again
don’t you ever dare say that again
mystery mystery mystery mystery
now we’re made of swarming dots
greek atomism in an un-ironed smock
elemental bits surrounded each by a void
says it right here
“surrounded each by a void”
wouldn’t you know it
when you go looking for them
the bits are nowhere
no wait they’re everywhere
where are they right now
we are not made to know
the table stops your hand from passing through
not for me it isn’t
I’m looking for my swarming dots
they comprise us, shouldn’t we be looking for them
then you find one of the dots
its theme is uncertainty
thanks for nothing
no wonder ancient statuary looks so pissed
the machine is on tippy-toe and dizzy
my doomed little brother got arrested
why did you call the police
will he always have a sharpened chicken bone
jammed into the roof of his mouth
why did you call the police
you care for him, oh that’s it
sic the machine on him
he needs the tuned machinery
of a pummeling institution
i can’t pull back far enough
to reduce this to inconsequence
all this awe and mystery wheeling around
giant clockworks with singing dolls, caesium, noble gases
why are there underwear sales at Nordstrom
what has that to do with the curvature
what has that to do with the archangelic blossoming
why did the chicken bone
penetrate my little brother’s hard palate
he was maybe three
why did you call the police
I don’t want parity or justice
i just want a machine
approximately as merciful
as it is fucking huge and stupid
flirt – helen frankenthaler 1995
air is drawn into us by a fluttering membrane
an autonomic bellows
okay, a tympanum of muscle
a muscle-floor, honestly
it bisects us longitudinally
keeps the sub-basement below the belt where it belongs.
vein-threaded muscle-floor distends and relaxes vertically
so? so the careful admixture
(nitrogen. and oxygen!)
flows into diaphanous skeins that depend,
like two weary undershirts,
from a forked hanger.
what we breathe is borne downstream
into the body’s countryside
by river and burbling brook
sometimes by a silver
thread glinting through reeds
this year’s Intelligent Design
is a nesting doll of grief and wisdom
you will inhale a gnat
taking that life inside your own
though the gnat-horror of this intake
is likely not experienced as poetry
nor is there any evident design ingenuity in the episode
when that mechanic on the aircraft carrier deck
sanguine in his jumpsuit
got sucked into the fighter jet nacelle
was glory given to McDonnell Douglas
with upturned palms and murmuring lips
not that we know of
but when men are sucked into engines
the talk does turn to vessels
this is the murmuring lip talk
“we are but vessels…”
the gnat is herself a vessel
brimming with the busy ur-citizens of this comic romp
the cells are likewise jammed
with mitochondrial filigree and magic jelly
but here we’ll stop the regress
before it gets disgusting
or so wondrous we slide distractedly off the interstate
the grinning overweight boob
with the unshaven chins and kind eyes and ear buds?
who always boards babbling and laughing?
today he’s accompanied by a beautiful, unblemished young girl
he sleeps heavily against her, his bear arms
movingly clamped across her torso
his paw clutching her right shoulder
hard to describe
he’s leaning sidewise and half-twisting
the angle is awkward, supplicant and shameless
a drowning man’s embrace
but you’ve heard that one before
her eyes are glassed with moisture
the whites darkened, Bergman on the tarmac
she stares straight ahead like Bergman
occasionally kisses his forehead
she seems about to weep
she’s beautiful and inexplicable
he awakens blinking like an enormous grizzled kid
she speaks to him
in a high, impeded register
hollering around a swollen, unanchored tongue
her brain fibre compromised.
she is just so beautiful.
this is not a reasonable realm
but a room-temperature cauldron
or an entrapping wind tunnel
whose swirling spicks and specks
we grossly misapprehend
with each buffeted breath and gesture
Forgive me, whoever you are.
when puffy radiant clouds inhabited yesterday’s sky
I walked among them as an actor would
though they bled like shadows
over my speeding car
and otherwise provided
good cloud visual
when I stepped back I saw
what we aren’t given to see
this is indeed a large wet stone
in an empty space, adrift, alone
cloaked in an envelope of gathered air
a filmic matte painting overhung
only chemicals and steam
night “falls” across the dinner hour
and the entrapping firmament
has the aspect of a lazy dream
This morning I pushed rinsed romaine lettuce
down into a pyrex bowl.
I patted the leaves with a paper towel
and was reminded of your tragedy.
We had gathered what was needed;
our Scarpa Phantom 8000 boots and heavyweight Balaclava
caused us to us stare and draw breath,
and the Windstopper fleece gloves and Arcteryx Alpha suits were pristine
and smelled of victory and packing silica.
Our lightweight titanium crampons promised life
and a victory picnic back home,
where, in glad repose under shade trees
we would say “escarpment”.
The Black Diamond Express Ice Screws scared us, though.
Our sherpas were named Pringle and Huffhurr, I think,
and they bridled at our giggling pronunciations,
brusquely asked to see our water-resistant gloves
“for the icefall.”
When we looked at each other
they looked at each other
with the flattened windburned faces of Shangri-La.
Even then we imagined summiting to Bacharach and David’s
“Living Together, Growing Together”.
Do you have a heat-exchanging wire mask
to prevent Khumbu-cough? Pringle asked peremptorily.
Yes, of course, I lied.
What should have been our foreboding
was subsumed in our egg-nog-emboldened braggadocio.
The night before the ascent your salad spinner broke.
Murdering Nepalese winds howled and clawed,
our Eureka Alpenlight 2XT flapping like a terrorized schoolgirl.
Nevertheless you patted the wet lettuce
and it cut you through the paper towel,
and Huffhurr shouted in a Navajo-voice
“why are you petting those leaves!”
Our wind-bronzed chaperones awakened me at dawn
and silently pointed, their hands over their mouths.
You were frozen, naked in your sleeping bag,
a solid-state adventure tourist,
the whites of your eyes dulled bargain ivory,
your laughing joy-face made stupid
by a profuse yapful of frost-blackened romaine.
Back to school night
slumbering parents sag through rooms
look brightly at each other, wrinkling noses
then drop masks
plop into plastic saddles
their asses stir to remember
in history the teacher exults
“the kids didn’t mind the Mayflower!”
frightening me badly
in maths the teacher
is lanky and thick-haired and cheery
wearing a lanyard and i.d. badge
like a classified scientist
thoracic concavity and blousing shirt
conveying underfed youth
a distance runner
at the spring dance
in his excited kid voice he says
“we’ll study exponential variances.
I bark a weary laugh
look around at the parents
jaws open, dogs awaiting a tossed mercy-snack
worst is Physical Science
eyes bagged and non-responsive
grups looking tiredly at their iShit
the teacher is a former materials engineer
wonderstruck by her subject which is
the Crushing Vastnesses, plural
our real-time embrace of the growing void
things are moving away from each other
as one would expect in an explosion
but accelerating as the mess blossoms outward
teacher talks about kids finding passion
she calls it “their passion” like everybody does
a common mistake.
the dead are unmoved
occupy the eternal moment daintily moving fat hands
over phone screens with pinkies extended
“We’ll study what makes up the atom,” she says.
they stare at her through draping eyelids
my blood leaps like a synapse
I attempt to stand
I can’t wrestle myself free of the school desk
with its sanguine pencil groove
and perpendicular tubing
heads lazily turn
I’m momentarily constrained
unable to free myself I begin shouting
from a semi-crouched, prostrate position
legs held fast by gunmetal
“Oh! Are you bored of the Atom!
Space is a windless field of rocks!”
So self-righteous, I later realize.
Possibly being dumbstruck
is not a sound measure of spiritual wholeness.
We go home and microwave mini pizza
the first greedy bite fastens a scalding flap of cheese
to my hard palate
and I scream o god how I scream