"A Whole Lotta People," "Things to Say at the Bus Stop," and "Glass Towers"

A Whole Lotta People

When populations crawl up on the riddle of the Sphinx,
       everything’s resting on the cat-eyed universe.
Intuitive beings who happen to be animals will build nests
       that resemble those of their ancestors. facing away
       from the bewildering numbers of cataclysmic stars.
So the only moment this is, nests will be woven of cardinal intent
       before regarded eggs will have suddenly dropped into place.
So the 2.5 billion people on Earth when my generation was born
       has rocketed through the sky until exceeding 8.
The emergence of one who could be no other defies mathematics
       as this life shoulders luminous pours of consciousness.
So much time passes, that now come the jays and crows talking
       in Corvid, surveying the grounds where people have left.
Out of progress, come drawbacks, concussions, grasses at work
       from morning to night, come hollowness, holy abdication,
       guarding and you name it, matter made of energy, liberty,
       architecture left in between centuries with their halves apart,
       sophistry, symphonic passages, oneness with its halves fused,
       seeing our first steps down the street were taken in mothers.
So Joe Cocker, dripping in the fall of gray rains and rainbow mists
       at Woodstock, standing square, declaring, cried out, lifting
       the underground self for an uncountable number into the air,
       when he sang, mythically, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
So farm ditch grasses and thistles that doctor the air in the morning
       must know the atmosphere rides on a sea of microorganisms.
So there’s the sense of living warmth, intrinsic value from birth
       and health where our future has little choice but to take over
       through one instance of forgiveness followed by the next.
“The Hymn to Joy” must realize how the body sits in an evening chair
       with its 2 birth parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents,
       16 great greats, going back multiplying by two, the birth
       mother and father who live in bodily cells with ancestors.
And you go back further, to pass 256,000, then 512,000 alive at once,
       simply multiplying by two birth parents each generation,
       back to roughly 1,024,000 ancestors in only twenty generations.
Impossible mathematics, evaporation in the warmth of beetle-crawl
       moth-fly light, where the mother who believed in us
       once thought of the still-forming world with all she was,
       from the mother and father in every cell that was hers.



Things to Say at the Bus Stop

Do you happen to know the next time of day
when the metropolitan bus is anticipated?
Will you be taking the slow train to Kansas?
Like my mother used to tell me, “The night
will smell fresh and green in the morning.”
Listen, I can see you’re a unique individual
naturally frustrated by routine interrogation.
Probably you find everyone saying your hands
reveal a most uncommon musical inclination.
O, the insanity, the blank aching in humanity
that takes bitter swallows of unclear transience.
O, the scourge that stirs up the cooking pot
when enormous numbers stumble ahead alone.
So would we be free to choose, or predestined
to forever expand civilization beyond reason?
So do you believe in neo-biblical fruitfulness?
O, haven’t we been pushed back by the expanse
which is so immense it cannot be questioned?
Does the onset of Flemish foreshortening burden
your redemption this Easter, or is it just me?
Can anyone hope to escape what can’t be seen?



Glass Towers

Injure life support of the other species
          and slowly disable your own.
Perceive redwoods as greenbacks shivering
          and shrink people into coinage.
Embrace unknowing as the greatest answer
          and starve all our hunger.
All things in sync necessarily fall
          out of labor in between speaking
          and living out your words.
A word is a world as molten as sleep is
          around waking, when the next grains
          arrive by Mac truck at the docks
          of food factories perfecting tastes
          that appeal to the centers of belief.
Human longing becomes the sun at the horizon
          while yellow pollen steps down
          the long silk wicks of corn.
We’ve witnessed the root-hair effects of a century
          of advancement, when people embraced
          every new invention, as if they couldn’t live
          without it, as if change were inevitable,
          which caused time to rush along even faster.
The more people have conquered the forces of nature,
          the more who believe we can live on Mars.
The more gargantuan the machines on wheels,
          the taller the sheer glass buildings
          held in the air by complex equations,
          while life goes on somewhere below.



James Grabill’s poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and online at CalibanonlineTerrainonline, The Decadent Review, and others. He wrote four books from Lynx House Press including Poem Rising Out of the Earth (Oregon Book Award, 1995), as well as Sea-Level Nerve: I & II (2014 & 2015 – Wordcraft of Oregon), Branches Shaken by Light, Reverberations of the Genome, & Schoenberg in the Troposphere (2020, 2021, & 2023 – Cyberwit, India), Eye of the Spiral (2022 – Uncollected Press), Stray Dogs & Irreversible Cars (2023 – Atmosphere Press) & others. He taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, April 23, 2023 - 20:00