Those denying what they’ve been doing,
who force everyone to clean up behind them
the way they can, might not know the mess
we’re in, and can be found dissolving and fuming
elemental chemistry at other people’s expense,
others be damned, their compounds gone down
slopes of the watershed, back to the underground,
then treated or not, eventually irrigating corn
or poured from the tap into a person’s glass.
Those who created suffering in the morning,
who knew nothing about it in the evening.
A winter for the crimson-brown
white-specked rooster out back
every forty to ninety minutes shrieking
as if dawn had just cracked, so instantly
he’s responsible for pecking the hens awake,
many who’re there squawking and clucking
with an intensity that many people here
keep in reserve for their terrorists.
The rooster’s alarm, elevated further,
would soon be out of view, so high up
he’d be one of the satellites of Saturn
where loss of gravity feels like home.
Such a point in four dimensions
could guide the balance of labor
on the ground, as if the rich weren’t
still out denying their costs to us,
as ghost radios are pouring into the rooms
and muscles, alive the way people can be
carried by more than we know, not simply
as our names, but where each life is woven
before birth, as if ocean fish could be seen
all at once, the time the fish will sing
night stars back across the open waters.
The time fish are artists, with dredged
sea floors on the palette, the overhead sea
surface steaming, mammalian, a humpback
calf in the shallower almost amniotic water,
one eye gazing into the eye of her mother.
Call her a baby,
and the ocean
her mother’s womb.
The vast trash vortex swirls north
and east of Hawaii, twice the size
of Texas, its current packing the lost
plastics which fill the bellies of fish
and birds there until they can’t eat
any more, and can’t pass the plastics,
and can’t avoid the parts of ghost nets
still catching what swims there.
The river factories continue to fume
carbon out to the heights, deconstructing
everyone’s future, even their own,
the days there, the water and billions
living, the decades of boiling chicken
off the bone, the loosened carbon
with oxygen dissolved into oceans
that, after passing a point, will be
exhaling carbon back into the air.
These bodies of mammals, especially
mammals now that humpbacks are,
the mammals now people living we know,
these children of ours having the next
children who soon enough may be at risk.
In the face of chemical farmland slipping
bread basket Midwest soon irrigated-out
then up-welled hotter with scarcity of water
gone north, as plants will for leaves
to rain-shifted spreads, as the Southwest
out-crawling drifts may desertify forests
parched by earlier melts, clear-cut
as the methanes up-streaming, hot-flooded
work weeks, spawning the grain-hungry
masses, when further disruption uproots
much we were given. Now we have fewer
than ten years to stop the gases, or more
than five, fewer than twenty, to act
on and adjust to what’s unthinkable,
scientists say, is liable
then to be coming down.
As if long swims of scripture could summarize
the exact outages of political will, molecular
integrity laboring in the face of cellular parts
of the circle diametrically opposed to projected ends.
The leathery scent of ranches in organic swells of what’s left
unplugged as volts torn from a socket, metronomic
and raw, quickened along oil roads black-laced
on the outskirts, however it feels, if you’ll offer water
or argue for giving less, where holding is half the problem,
half the solving, where clarinets go lost in spirals
of first eggs under sea light, wind that’s dust in rain.
The diluted whole with seahorses held in Pacific
Ocean womb the father-hearts belly-hinge here
the endogenous quantum nature of appearance
working its circle open to then withdraw, afternoon
to afternoon as tribal musicians squat with instruments
practicing the stone walls ornate as endorphic spreads
of fin leavings on the shore, sleeking out hydroid
churnings, the chorded molluscan nodes root-docked
with new dredgings, tonic and in-scooped.
Spawned under molts rock-fossiled as sea air
in all cultural apex, the off-basement cities
a crystalline blue unfolding as rain over Mayan yellow
and gold once tap-rooted by European settlements.
Along with so much more, for everyone to be going
soon through ocean-flooded future times
maybe there’s nothing to eat, as water will have been
re-establishing credentials, echoing root name
birth shatterings, snapping back atmospheric
to then tender methane which advances 60%,
the carbon dioxide 450 ppm for anthropogenic end.
[waves turn into energy]
At least one-hundred billion
galaxies sweep us along
again showing photographs of the eclipse
of the world’s poor
a few sparrows mercy-gripping maples
after flights through tinctures
over the red taverns
as breaking subatomic reception
of the body in each cell
when glaciated time is melting
the ways craving has light
uncertain as a finch’s touch
on cheekbones of a model
walking in space made by hips
of a smallest particle
held by the immensity of weight
in unseen circling
however complex breathing can be
and long as scattered sunflowers
or the smallest grip
taking on form
and this burden
under daytime stars.
The afternoon had gone as expected at first, its fire fighter
on the bread aisle, the widow near freezer doors suddenly
dropping boxes into her cart near the new-formula tortilla display
with flags from Mexico City, the woman with engine-red hair,
the man in his ‘50s gray undershirt, the woman in her aqua gown
on the kitchen supply aisle talking in an East European dialect
to herself or on a device, the conveyors running then stopped,
running then stopped, and suddenly the floors of the place
began to rumble, and to crack into icebergs that were tilting
when the back storerooms blew and aisles fell pitch black
with everyone shrieking, as the massive diesel train engines
blared through, plowing and catapulting the propagation,
the salmon slabs knocked intro whirling knife blades at pitches
shattering the glass, towers of cans colliding as loud men shouted
in monotone ringing and thundering fruit that was splashing
onto sea floors collapsing, Las Vegas crumbling, the money dust
everywhere, the sky over San Francisco Bay dark with salivary
groans of bridge steel twisting, with walls collapsed into crackling
static in avalanche winds, shelves hammered hard by train cars
from Chicago, five engines plowing through each sugar sack,
coal-fired plants burning tungsten, frothing toward underground
stews, blast-furnaced government structures issuing an orange alert
with a few warning horns absently crying, Egyptians rioting for food
in Egypt, hitching road workers blind-sided, firing off repeating caved-in
indebtedness to no one, the Justice Department already out-gutted
with violation, raw milk tank cars thundering through each bedroom
community, the bones flying loose inside legs of people walking,
the pabulum hurled and ball bearings loose under each boot sole,
the rust-crossed spikes driven into mid-drifts stuffing the atmosphere
with thuds hitting solar rays downpouring through magnifying glass
roiled-out through CIA layers as manufactory pension fund releases,
vaporized on a Reagan dime into glacial ice over moon-blanched heads,
the silver-spoon president drawling for every power simultaneously,
the razor-wired detonations in Penney’s shirt pockets, individuals
maimed when the flocks collapsed, angry crews racked by skull-boned
intentional lies of their nuclear opposites, then spit, full-throttled,
into sprays of red-purple finishing nails bacterially infested
so truth will sound like lies, then jagged patches of rooftops
saucering off into locomotive squall blasts already mutating
as raw meat counters thunder-rolling fronts of heat
down viscous oil-sheeted avenues lubed up
greenish beige in quantum coffinry, no single
shambles ruined but that instantly released a fireball
of absentee amateur zeros drug out spill-bellied
through ingestion of Appalachian mountain-top coal,
the ignited TNT caboose malls
near turn-offs inhaling sleets
of military fuselages,
and on the heels of that,
showers of nuclear cars emulsified
throughout rank core-roaring
cemetery remains risen
into the next blood-sport
of numeral-driven tsunamis,
as a bit of the market
to fully kick in
with papal decrees.
The hour before cottonwood leaves
break into night sky, before poplars
comb through the passing runners.
With onion-domed ovens at the bakery
still warm from the planet having formed,
having received sunlight this hour
the nets dredge the on-rolling sea floors,
a candidate’s angry words barreling in a boy,
the midnight coals scalding red, bowling
through a person’s future sleep.
The silver-black locomotives
mined brilliance of the West.
When many called where they were
what they owned, and what they’d seen
all they’d seen, as if moss, as if groves
of sequoia, as if the horizon they owned.
The rooftops of afternoon swirled-up dust
became an influx there with William James
leading other Harvard psychologists
in telekinesis, penetrations of matter
and space, through which time jumps
past what might have been unthought.
An unnarrowed road, its immeasurable
wall of lit candles, the wind nothing
but waves, with hydraulics visible
only when moving through the future.
Before the mind contained what it isn’t.
Before open sky as scent of Shell gasoline.
Before Tibetan lamas roaring in the core
came here, throat-singing, doing calm
through two songs at once, a person here
and rock of Earth, the person sitting
on rock, the Earth opening to light.
A first time measuring blood as it carries
the next fires, wind over the river
of atoms, the root rains of green plants
in the hour before bees, as no place other,
before descending red-orange quickening
over billions living their roots in the world,
the unseen opening core of a next unknowable
widening above what cannot be seen
before rain on the Ford windshield clears,
planting the Earth beneath systems
of suns in pulsatile fields, the unseen
next atoms intuited clear from seed,
the hour here a museum with many floors
to be discovered, that owned us from birth.
Esoteric seeds, what we’d memorized
before returning to speak, the hills
with ridges extending to any phrenological
up-swept matters, receiving their blooms,
threaded there with night
of starlit mind, the impulses
linked, as if it were the first
time the inner sound was on,
before more could be found.
Her old mammals left her with an eclipse
talking down all the time to the sorrow
in cemeteries of elapsed bells, the kitchen hulks
blistering the uncounted cards ripped together
as if parts of the week could be fully digested,
her religious metals peppered into a head
of cattle sandwiched there by a constant Pacific
sweat-soaked flame stinking of parsonage hounds
as tomatoes with their exegesis crested into a chance
they’d anti-mushroom, accidentally captured by the future
scarlet, and her disobedience far from a contemporary
setting on the unfinished camera, as her hurled-open
duck marsh hauled ducks in like the day’s forgiving
which gave her an edge of an open-pit mountain top
sold off in vastness, the difficult number zeros not hatching
into a devotional Vedic hymn a girl sings to the comets
surrounded, as they are, by carvings of solemnity
to make gravity impermanent, with roundness built in
to the ancient city a dolphin might notice when she leaps
far out of the ocean, past the thirty-seventh windows
with her brilliance of silver brain awake for the long time,
the complex naval-interrupted maneuvers, with forests
assuming the century’s priesthood wood-pulse shade
sheltering light if it could, so the sound of hard rice pours
rain into empty sun barrels the sunlit avalanche of thinking
and caring now about later unowned sky and the disowned
you know, and what can be done, as we are gentle people
of terribly overheard deserts, breaking out in trouble
once again the photographs of years later built in the air
in a tumult of swells vaporous visible stomach longing rain
clouds, and why don’t they just go home asking for an elegance
adept as Obama at furthering close agreements of individuality.
Man walks into the water
are you the tide I’m gathering at my chest?
You, who’ve been gone so long.
Perhaps, you’re the morning air?
Your landscape of possibility
a dance of knowing steps,
reaping the sum of the sky.
Holding shadow like rain cloud.
My body becomes a wave,
an ocean of thought. A song.
And the wind buries breath,
and all things come and go.
Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer
just a misty presence out there,
just like ghost-song.
And all things seem out of focus,
and all things blur from effort,
as if the world was made up
of two parts thunder, one part rain.
Caricatures Can Never Be Loved
I hear music when I’m trying to
work. You have to understand: no one
cries for the fat man with the broken knees
smeared in banana skin, the librarian
splattered under a piano. Heads don’t turn
from the droning click of keys
to even notice the tragedy of dying
in khakis. I trap my hours in graphite,
pin their wings to the page and draw neat
lines through them when I’ve spent them.
This is how it should be, no? And yet
tell me how. I can’t even spell
the word libretto, and yet at the periphery
of my hearing, voices rise, and here I scribble.
I am Woodrow Wilson in Indiana. I am Margaret Sanger before Ernst Rudin. Consider Sir Francis Galton’s hairy knuckles exposed while reading his cousin’s book. Consider Alexander Graham Bell’s high stepping cattle as shown to the American Breeders’ Association. I’m talking about regression towards the mean. I’m talking about the rising ape. The men of Tuskegee are only numbers. There are no choices, only a general downward slide. We need a loan from the genius bank. We must sever the posterior from posterity. We must breed men like carthorses. Catch the falling angel and steal its wings. We’ve got to get the feeble-minded off the tax payers’ backs. We hold each other back.
Let me tell you a joke: all of us
are dying. Guy walks into a bar
because he doesn’t have the sense
to buy at cost. The little things,
the most delicate, the precious, the special
will be broken just as randomly
as our hopes. A salesman asks a farmer to spend
the night. Farmer says, only if you don’t
mess with my underage daughter. Salesman says, sure,
but what if she starts it? Farmer says
that’s different. Truth is only a word and words
are often misspelled and rarely understood,
and the ones that are perfectly understood
are still lost. We are none of us noble
when the shit spews from our dying
backsides, the piss soaks our withering
groins. No matter what we’ve bought or
believed in, we are all destined to rot.
Our children will follow and their children.
Even if we are recognized, miraculously,
momentarily as something more than
ordinary, our works will be forgotten. Honor
the days before they are nights, the nights
before they are outshone. Remember
the time Matt fell off the trampoline, hanged,
one leg thrown over, both hands gripping,
slipped, wide-eyed, sardonic and inevitable
onto the fresh cow pile below. We are all of us
nothing but sufferers, pathetic, ugly,
and unappreciated. We are all of us alone,
but it is ours, that suffering, unique and unknown.
And when we are dust, it will be, too,
The chill envelops the arms like sleeves;
it wants to be worn,
shown off like anniversary pearls,
tasting of envious eyes that smell of glue.
Grab its tail, if you like, but it will squeak free
to scurry in a corner, always watching
always gnawing at bare toes .
But why must they be bare?
But why can’t they be bare?
This is the problem of sunlight
that doesn’t burn, muscles
that don’t stretch, only break.
The blue-veined arm of need
which doesn’t consider the perspective
of tan. You are the mayor of worthless,
and I will only vote for you. But understand
I’m asking you not to run.
Tomorrow yawns, stretches its tootsies
and wanders to the fridge, praying for:
First, consider Eichmann’s pension
plan, the student loan debt with which we saddle
our literate few that keeps them treading
water until they’ve forgotten the fire
of reform. Notice the bureaucracy of complaint, the con
fusion of necessary/not necessary. The planned
obsolescence of education. Notice the respect
for long-term incompetence versus in
novation. The European workday. The circadian
rhythms of the body and the effects these have
on productivity. Notice the stress of the caged
rat. The ever-looking-towards-tomorrow
and the sudden greed of today.
Ask: what do we value? Do we value? When
we see Rebecca on the road, do we let her
pass? When she says, “I know who you are,” do we
ignore her scratching at the bolted door
and simply clean up the mess on the porch
in the morning?
Consider the acceptance of the averted eye. The
condoning of noise. The lowered standards
we all are meant to praise. Notice the lack of respect
for honesty. The disappearing work ethic.
The inundation of mediocrity.
Ask: if I pay $20 for a pair of shoes
which last 2 months, am I saving money? Is saving
money the final consideration, even?
Ask: who made these shoes? Ask: how
are shoes made? In a similar manner,
how am I made and unmade, and likewise
the world around me.
Consider the Paranthropus’ quarter-sized molar
and where it got him. The elongated fingers
of the Australopithecus. Our kin. Our own
fingers, straight and long, our own teeth,
smaller, yes, but interspersed with eyeteeth, incisors.
Ask: what do I eat? And what does that make me?
Ask: am I born all I’ll be? Or shall I choose?
The trees are spike-fingered hands, reaching.
The trees are hungry, but they’re not hungry for you.
Taste their slug-slow blood. It is warm
as sap can be. See the damp rot rise from
its bones; death does not need you in Maryland.
Death is well fed, here. It hardly smells your blood slowing,
your years tumbling out behind you.
Let us consider the naked branches, arms bereft
of adornment, hard to the touch and yet soft
and yet singular and yet common as clay.
The fading intentions of change. The necessary evil--remind me,
why is it necessary? Forgive me, forgive me; I can never
keep track of all the contradictions. Though Johnny may fly,
he has no wings. It’s difficult to explain without
reverting to abuse. You understand, don’t you? You will.
Those horrible trees; they ache along the thoroughfares,
the cracked streets, the boarded up buildings. They die
for us, who never even ask: Como te llamas? They only grasp,
hands, fingers, the revelations of buried arms
belonging to whom? To what? To when?
The clouds gather stones to mark
the passage of days, waiting until the smell of grey
overwhelms. Wind rubs against grit, feels
it on its palm-skin and complains. The taste of rain
drowns the noise. Stone falls to dirt, joining.
These are not clouds, anymore. But let us not speak
of absolutes. Johnny done tore his ass. That’s why
his jeans don’t fit nomore. I don’t breathe
when I jump; the trick is knowing
when I’ve landed.
The red dirt of consciousness hoards
its wealth. Stones float. You think Old Johnny lies?
You will come to learn the truth: sputtering clouds,
when accosted, reveal their stones afin de ne pas
l’oublier. They will fall. Wait, as the clouds, as the tailors,
as must we all; wait.
Greenhouse Effect Coffeeshop
I’m in the bass line
Listening to musical smoke
While everybody’s watching
The last few I slipped down
Steepest stairs in the world
One Thousand One Arabian Nights
Is my room above the Greenhouse Effect
Four women walk
Through the front door
Cider in the coffeeshop
Seated at the threshold I see
The first looks
now with you
is like being
alone only more
now with you
is like convers-
ing with nothing left
now with you
not able to see outside
more than you could
now with you
is less different than without
and I am even more
as I was before.
The day before we leave
John drives us out, past
Tollymore, through Bryansford
by the graves,
on and up to Rafferty’s place.
At the cottage we let
ourselves through the gate,
straight to the back fence
where the fields start.
We lift the outhouse latch
see the well,
our family drawing water.
All the dead
stepping down to drink
and the spring-bathed face
of Mourna Ban Rua,
just like in the picture.
At Belfast Harbour we settle in,
boiled sweets and gin all the way to England .
For days we have been keeping him
from leaving the ground, but now
after dropping us, John is off
to sing in his cups down at the Donard.
After lock-in he snakes to the take-out,
rolls down to the bay, to find again
the cloud like Nellie’s hair, the sand
that glints a smile, invites him to jump
down awhile, curl in its grain.
Tomorrow, fragile, flying back to Canada
John will blame jet-lag,
will rack his brain without success,
to explain the ear cut clean across,
the tear in his head:
the great thickness of lost blood.
When she comes over this time
Auntie Nellie brings Cousin John:
the young ginger one,
cute though because of the twang.
God love him, she says all the time
and after a while our mam joins in,
is back to talking just like them:
God rest her; Bless us and save us;
Heaven be praised.
For weeks after they go back
she’s at the front window
gazing out over our street
as if it’s Newcastle County Down
not Newcastle upon Tyne,
like an isolated rebel under attack
singing Kevin Barry to keep sane.
For the promise of white lace necks
on ringleted daughters
you will all leap off
across the water,
spend eternities on dancing frocks,
embroidering the Celtic cross
for all your frisky-kneed girls:
the new English champions of Ireland.
And I am here still,
stepping the centuries on Ulster stone
with no hard shoes to save me,
disconnect me from the Irish sod.
I am on my back
listening to the earth,
the water throwing itself
down the length of the Mournes,
the mountains whispering
St Donard saying Mass;
tales and legends,
the claim of names and flags,
while under me
green and orange intertwine, unite,
and I lie scraped and veined and mottled,
my purple-heathered knees
sticking up and out from me
like Slieve Donard and Slieve Thomas,
falling open under the black sky.
* Beanna Bóirche was the Gaelic name for the Mountains of Mourne,
still being used in the seventeenth century.
On its eleven-hundredth-and-forty-fifth trip
around her, the next full moon
will pull Teresa up,
move her to switch off the big light,
inch across the silver sitting room
to her window above the motorway.
Glorious, she will say, looking up,
knowing that what she sees above
is a dim version of her childhood vision
from the Mournes;
that city nightscapes fog things
with their squints of orangegreen artificial light,
clogging our blood so we forget
how to read this map of dark delights,
and all our grandmothers said
about the behaviour of the Heavens:
the stars, birds, colours and clouds,
all we need to know about tomorrow,
sought in the nature of sky.
I spring from the land
of the Mournes
where the red-headed women dwell,
I live in the breath
of Rafferty’s cottage,
in the water drawn up from the well.
I fill the pail that Nellie carries,
I spill and I wash and I swell.
Over the fire I sting,
deliver the stew
that is served to the men.
Michael, William, Peter, Thomas,
and all the rest
bending their heads
at the watery steps
their bubbled knees, strong necks,
swirls of laughter, breath on stone.
Woman in the Bar
My wife and I took our seats at the bar in Penn Station,
Forty minutes to wait before our train.
The middle-aged woman sitting next to me,
Wearing a frilly prom dress,
A fancy cocktail untouched
Leaned over and whispered:
“Hello, sailor. Do you think
You’re man enough
To rock my world?”
I hesitated. “I doubt it,” I told her.
She turned away
And began whispering to the man
To her left. Their conversation
Intense, but every
Once in a while she’d turn to me
With the whispered
Play-by-play: “He’s got
A wife in Copaigue, but thinks
Maybe he can catch the later train
If we head over to the
Hotel across the street
For a quick one.”
But by the time she’d turned back
To him, the man had stood up
And was rushing out of the bar.
Silence. The three of us
Alone. Then two women
Entered, and our new friend
Called: “Hey, Ladies. Can I
Buy you a drink?”
But the ladies scuttled
Into the shadows.
“They probably think
I’m into pussy,” the woman confided.
“Well, I can accommodate.”
It was time for our train, so Barbara and I
Stood up. I turned to say
“Going so soon?” she asked,
Then sighed. “Oh well.
A slow evening.”