YOU SEARCHED FOR : MEMENTO MORI
Your ear worm needs to sleep so you sing a story
5 milligrams long, then pillow-talk parts per million and that clip
from Godard someone you hardly know just sent you.
It won't be long before "When the glass broke,
sand covered the sensors" is awarded The Century's
Best Sentence. The prize jury is anyone left.
What does love look like then, when the biggest shadows
are cast by dunes, the ocotillos and yucca buried, stunted
like letter-press manifestos or the PET scan
of a world gone deeply screwed? There's good coffee
on the way to the stadium, stenciled archetypes
on helmets and whatever. So it's time to start feeling better
about feeling better about feeling hopeless :
the smell of a tree, revolution impossible, the future
more present than the present, the past a wide
wooden hallway at the top of wide wooden
stairs in a house behind the church, grungy sunlight
Sunday bright and the lewd, luscious
roses, that wallpaper peeling in empty rooms, fixtures
without bulbs and the first toilet you'd seen without water :
anagrams mixed up beyond childhood : flower,
skull, hourglass. You sensed it, the grown-ups too,
whose voices from the parking lot should've been louder,
how everything started from there. You
smelled of incense and smoke from snuffed candles.
After the Pleistocene, there was the midwest
and all those megafauna
corpses rotting in glacial melt,
neither rising nor collapsing.
It'll be like that, only drier.
YOU SEARCHED FOR : JUBILAT
Pin to the taskbar your addiction to poignancy,
Becker's observation that there is an overabundance of truth.
If you were solely animal, to find the yellow legal pad
would be to sniff the black moth
she found in her study, then make sunlight your bed.
You'd like to put off entropy at least till Tuesday,
Tuesday being, always, the saddest cubicle
unless you think in days after tomorrow, so you sort of skip it
and hump day and already Thursday looms
like a wormhole to Saturday coffee and a giant pancake
in the barrio, with Christopher Smart and your Heinlein novel, retro
futurism warming a decade in your belly, you're so busy building
that genre's history to archive debt and bedlam
you've forgotten to tell her you remembered
the waitress in Tulsa you both wanted, a languid
spraggle at a conference hotel, name
badges dripping like syrup, black skirts and blue ties
smelling richly of having fucked if that had been utopia.
The fact of pointlessness is increasingly pleasant under the right circumstances.
Sometimes they're stalking lizards.
Sometimes they're curling in your arms, some guttural
mutation that makes us all sleep better. Electricity,
beta-test the spell-check from writer to writher, from create
to creep. The Golden Age is the Golden Rave.
Because your poems at 27 about being 24 hadn't read enough
and the only way to get it done before the long accord with silence
is to transmit 74 lines from Fragment B,
part 3—the only good poem anyone's written
—and bury in the time capsule every photo of a periscope.
His robot spider clicks black toes
against the metal floor. The technician
puzzles circuits, a tool gleams.
Nothing is plumb. Actuators seize.
We shim the gaps with plans and bits of song.
We coax motion from signals.
In river channels, rocks surged then rested
for a long time. The spider tried to climb them.
Not so long. Sunlight peels shade.
We do too, darning this place to some other,
there's a road not far from here. We go,
scooting another lens to sandstone—spectrographs
blossom–and we figure the traverse needs,
next time, this other route, our practice :
the balky wheel that we make turn, the auger,
studious patch, line breaks marked with arrows,
a chord that fills our commons
during sun salutation—as it should be,
the heart rate's variable. But things go wrong, mostly
radioed with razor wire, uranium tips, like math
or music, a universal speech. The broken
tanager laid between brick
and thorn, smell of hay in the tired air.
Stanchions grip dirt to herd electrons
where something lived : throat,
fibula, village. Splinter
Incorporated and shard.com
make tea for the elders, who still need convincing.
Country and biome, solder meet staple.
To repair the damage is to prepare the calendar,
a less sexy memo but still. Cells stitch
a pierce, the board is made
to file amends. And heartbreak?—makes us sing.
What else can we do
but fashion a decent happiness
and tell tragedy to go fuck itself
because we're in love and there's work to do?
The spider taps its feet
only when we tell it,
but we know the circuit's bigger.
Out there, we're speaking in mime,
refining gestures to explain
the states we're in. I'm Okay
means the hand on the helmet.
No More means the hand at the throat.
The arms waving mean Come Here.
The hand before the visor means I Can't See.
The hand on the helmet means I'm Okay.
So we pat them with our gloves and grin.
Where do these poems come from? From watching When Worlds Collide and The Twilight Zone on late-night TV reruns 40 years ago. From expecting bombs to drop on my broken family. From critical theory on temporality. From thinking that nature poets should make out with technology sometimes. From hanging out with scientists at Biosphere 2 and at the Mars Desert Research Station. From WordPerfect. From watching stars rise over Dyer's woad. From some kind of Anthropocene mindfulness? Well, possibly. Certainly from the British New Wave science-fiction magazine New Worlds. And, so, as ever, from J.G. Ballard. From doing a lot of email. From not writing prose. From the murals of Charles Knight. They come from some sort of faith that in retrofuturism there is not only nostalgia but some keys to making the next century a bit better than it's looking to be. Also, from the love of the weirdness of sounds, of sentences, of line-breaks. Sounds that fill the times between. No meaning to begin with. What is found.