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.
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
Christina’s World – Andrew Wyeth 1948
i see a long journey
a pale ribbon of road, as Nevil Shute wrote
i’m stumbling along its shoulder
my age confounds me
i am not what I expected
Arrow of Time defeats our predictions.
are you what you expected
you’d better not be.
i said you’d better not be.
i wish you’d tried harder
and I wish I’d tried harder
how can I tell you to try harder now
i can’t because I’m a phony
when my jaw moves you hear a dog barking
this morning an unshaven guy and a wall-eyed woman
spoke loudly at the bus stop
coherently but loudly
the guy wore a camouflage baseball cap
in a jungle he would be loudly visible
but for the area above the squamous suture
the wall-eyed woman appeared to have
pinned her hair up in the dark,
or angrily or vengefully
or while running for the bus
these careless choices haunt us
wrong turns don’t always shatter bone
often the denouement is a sly flattening
a doctorate in the next room
who laughs till he cries, for instance
all the day long
meanwhile our bland nuclear furnace
describes a Euclidean arc above us
a prancing ass we have to crane our necks to see
and then we’re blinded by it
celebrated fire dips out of sight
serenaded by poorly programmed songbirds
with blank expressions
ma’am make of the dawn what you will
write your crappy sonnet
your daybreak is a coordinate on a circle.
there I said it.
we’re all of us warm,
doomed little torches;
or bitches, depending
on the day’s cosmological demeanor.
under the covers we’re alive, though
falling to the pavement we’re alive, though
taking our hits at scrimmage we’re alive, though
hurl us through the windshield; we live!
with blackened eyes, yeah
and uneven laughter.
but here comes the sun again,
elephantine footfall in the hallway
our daughter bursts out of her room in the morning
like a force of nature.
count the days if you want.
an arbitrary number, our living days
you (dear) give off warmth in waves
I can feel the waves, almost peristaltic
your biological life
the cellular processes make warmth
it comes off you under the covers in waves
machined and purposeful
when my mom passed the heat left her by degrees
what’s the hurry.
the big soup tureen hastily reclaims our ingredients
this is not a vacation
but a slinky running down the stairs
spend caloric heat as we burn down
alright alright already
burn down through all the days
we scarcely take notice of them
in 200 years or less
we will never have been here.
yeah yeah so we lie here in the morning
burning down and radiant
burning down and down to nothing
skin changing, eyes changing
telomeres work their dissolution.
thermodynamics will preserve our stuff
but not this hour of lounging under covers.
this long hour transparent as a neutrino.
it’s really all we’ve got,
more than enough.
it’s much much more than the Big Bang owes us.
I hope you remembered
to make the coffee last night.
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
So this is what it feels like to know Life ticking by.
Contrary to the excited stammer of the sages
in their saffron pajamas, there’s not much to it.
Given the ballyhooed scarcity,
the celebrated mathematical precocity of it,
it does sidle past at this moment without any pageantry at all.
If we are a child’s handful of diamonds scattered across the unlikely aeons,
you wouldn’t know it as I stand here, outside my dumb office,
and feel an ordinary unscented breeze;
watch an ordinary scrap of jetsam flutter around the sidewalk.
“Be gone, breeze!” (he gestures with ham-like arms, in silence)
Humorless birds wheel and holler and alight on stucco.
A cloud wanders by in a poetic vacuum.
O starlit Machine, O numb Dynamo, is this your epiphany?
You have emptied your stellar coin purse on cognition,
and then dressed it in a Sears-issue windbreaker.
I suppose you think that’s funny.
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