where was the lord when the grinding began
the rock rolled then, the torture was going
badly–no common language, we heard things
drifting, dissipating, what was left, a
few furs and old money, a persimmon
seed, dust in every groove, an empty
bottle or two, a brass chain, where were they
living, who knew the last war would be so
invigorating, so short on supplies
and hallucinogens, our offerings,
insensate, so deeply felt and cheap, so
ephemeral, what were we doing in
the hideout when the boy shipped in, we had
drinks, we had cornbread and pot liquor in
the shed, had fried snake and old potatoes,
it startled us, all that steam and bother.
a stack of paper
not so robust but
under your hand like
a tight sheet on a
hotel bed, somewhere
you can go into
and close the door,
letters you don’t send,
the guardian of words
and wishing, the end
of all you’ve said
You may know our secret history but not
its secret plot, our words though what we say
no longer lives in them—so close to see, so
close to not. You may know us if you find
beneath knotted jungle our dilapidated
temples and winged bridges, our fortresses
with gates of woven iron, but will you see
in our universe of slide the places where
we found our mortality? Unknowable
now those complex scrims so like the real thing
they thrilled us from afar, or our enemies,
soft-footed, but unable to resist comment
on their stealth, coming in loud as the geese
that flew in from our fairytales, their burdened
skirts and later immolation. But still
to be known the umbral armature of
last words and last things, and the monster that
lives along the river in whose shadow
children, and sometimes lovers, disappear.
Alas the captain
the last late asteroid flies past
that swarm of clicking drives us.
Anything to save the herd. He says.
If the core overheats.
Bypass the vessel and all its vessel-like,
retrofit the avatars.
We do the future.
We made Mars.
Our ray guns light up
while the reptoids.
An enormous hole on deck five.
But our outfits more stylish than.
We are the partial humans,
We have names, we weld,
we meld, we hang out in wormholes
and hotels. We love tubed nutrients,
our plasma bomb.
we’re an underground.
Not lightning on the horizon.
antennae anomalies, warheads
and pranks, institutions
and airy boats the size of
dinosaurs blocking out.
Separated we guess
the other’s mind. The engineer
has moved the plate,
our window not a window
but a gate.
Our first maps are just abstract things:
we center what we know while nether regions
fall off edges, or countries of imagination,
blown out of all proportion, squat
invitingly unlimned, cramped in blank corners
populated with cities of monsters or mothers.
Later but still early on
uncharted territories occupy our minds
while we are caught in well-known grids
merely travelling on a dirty cross-town bus
or maybe driving late at night, alone,
not going anywhere, just not going home.
And later still, when ordinary life
has permanently locked its lock,
our dreams are full of fascinating
trips through stygian regions
where other people like the ones we know
are crucified or slowly roasted on the shores
of heaving rivers while we glide cautiously past
in makeshift boats paddled by guides who say,
“Don’t look now, Dreamer:
that will never happen to you.”
Then we discover it has already happened to us
in heartbreaking in and outside ways.
Finally we find ourselves pointblank
living lives we thought we’d never live
and where we really are is where we’re lost
as if another had mapped our lives instead of us.
Usurped by this strange self, we try hard to believe
that what we really are is unsurveyed.
No news here since the last famished
liberation, I’ve settled in silence
and the odd letter, embroidery
no one can see. When all you wanted
was bright bonnets and quaint skirts,
you got a skint knee and rue
prim as trimmed whiskers
to pass on to me along with
the magic of wash-and-wear.
Now we know you were the brave one,
now we know what that cost.
I’ve not forgotten how you sewed
my clothes–a velveteen collar on
a little coat, a flowery button on
a sleeve–or how your mother
made a quilt from what was left
of all you’d made for me. If only
you’d taught me gratitude and
how to scry unspoken expectation,
I’d not be so sorry now for all
the things that then I didn’t know.
a mark, a line, a here, a there
here and not there, there but not here
other lines–shaman’s lines–
for the unseen elsewhere
the neither here nor there
lines for things that move
through time and space–
food that must be chased and
other animals to do the chasing on
red lines for women and men and
our hands or visitors from other tribes
with impressive headgear
things we ran to or ran from
multiplied to put them inside time
lines for things remembered while we
waited for better weather
lines to call things to us, to worship
to cast spells, lines to hinge hopes on
to plan for crops or battles
lines we drew to plant a future in a past
dirt with gold in it or deep bruise blue
horses limned so precisely in motion
they’d break your heart to ride
between walk and fall
the little skin wants
a cut that can’t be crossed
a between wide enough
to breathe in even if
there’s not much living
on the other side
just more red edge
and less convincing
hurt seeping back into
every place you cut
to let it out