"Dated," "Coasting on Flames," "Apocalyptics," and "Nilling and Nerving"


This was the year Russian hackers
stole everything including our will
to live: fire sale for heart-shaped
boxes and personal ambitions on
the deep web, bitcoin only please.
So much ado about phishing: easy
passwords are the gateways to the
soul. In light of the news, the past
feels a poorly-lit puke green, and
poetry feels less flippant—although
the constant stretching for hipness
renders the verses down to flip
strings of broken, bargain-basement
prose. So all the names have been
changed to protect the guilty, and
we laser-etch the glass boys so
their jaws are defined, hiding the
hairline cracks and jagged shards,
cutting the air like sharks or like
the pretense of jealousy. Not all
I know are affected, not even with
clearest telescope could I see it:
the glimmer of the future, the
silver lining of the nebulae clouds.
Yes, everything is encrypted, even
your animal-stupid, knotted meat
lump of a heart won’t have its secrets
​uncoded for at least two decades
of pure mathematics. Yes, we should
mean goodbye when when we say it.
Yes, there’s traces of arsenic
in the mulled wine. Yes, the patrons
have written old rubber checks, we
can bounce the future along. I hear
echoes of acres in Serbia we
can barter for. The Russians drift
down current to the Bahamas from
Vladivostok, new leases on life
yet to be entirely repossessed.



Coasting On Flames

Everyone you love assumes rightfully
they are loved ones in a poem: I ask
​Abou Taleb about the coast of the Red Sea
blooms with sea sawdust, cyanobacteria

turns the waves to fire. He doesn’t say
much, sips his mint tea in a glass teacup,
asks me about American women
since I am always writing about them:

I can’t tell if he is asking to distract
me from asking about the Sea as
the dust of Cairo kicks around us
or in simple purulence, I say they

are like riding fire, baptizing you
in clear light then blood. He smirks
and comments on the monstrous
year, laments that I can only have

one wife, offers me another small
glass of mint tea. I think of beloveds,
some hemming the pieces together with
​Adderall and Oxycodone, I just hunting

allies for one more clear glass of tea,
warming me like a body fatally curled
around mine, kindness without mercy
for all those who shared bed, water

does not stay put in my memory,
even in the pictures taken with phones,
near does the heat, bursting into my
memory like a gas main exploding.

There are mounting lists of things
I need to sail but don’t get, I talk
to the fall wind and its whistle
reminds me of a woman’s voice.

There are thousand of coasts
to which I can sail from a desert,
but only a few I want to arrive at
port, after the oceans fire burns

the ship's hold, flames gnawing
the mass like mice chewing books.
someone told me the body was illiterate,
knowing thirst, warmth, hunger. Little

desiring machines, but I think of boats
outrunning the dust storms from Dahab
to Eilat, waters turning as red as menstrual
blood. Out of love a captain navigates,

when even the peddle oars turn to ash.
Out of love he drinks salt water, arriving
to another desert half-mad on a raft
of charred planks, burns all over him.




Too many lattes for memories
to flow easily, but not whisky
to take it straight: Remembering

sweat from the swelter as
twin towers fell: my girlfriend
in Johnstown as phones

nothing but distant static,
after everyone stopped crying
two young women kissed

on the coach as we watched
a movie to avoid the repeat
of the news. I once read

the way the cells can mutate:
growing over fecund, and
exploding. No Jasper John’s

canvas blank enough, stark
enough for the memory of
a women stripped to bra

and panties, crying at
a party the turn of the
last millennium, the weight

of zeros hitting her core
as she had partially stripteased
away to the future in the

champagne haze. One wants
to see so much. I have been
to the remains of the cave

on Patmos: nothing but
historical markers and rocks.
My father, my king, my

fear of sex addiction. Like
a cicada's carapace, I woke
with a lover between me

and another man that New
Year’s Eve. When I return
to places where the night

stays dark, I see myself emerging
with a soft exoskeleton, sore
from the all the changes I am.



Nilling and Nerving

The night is dead, long live
the night: I’m just visiting to
hear your voice, bundles of fibers
around the spine moving with
your sibilant whispers. I’m just

here to cry on your shoulder
under the flood that soaks the world’s
fire. It’s always been on fire,
in the center, melting rock into
rock, the bedroom weighting

itself down into itself with
perceptual intensity. You listen
to the noises, days collapsing
in on itself as you drink staling
lager in styrofoam cup, your

kisses will smell of longing and
echoes of a past we both made
choices against. On holidays,
I hear an echo, like the crackle
of the dried pine straw burning

in the Georgia fall, summer heat
in the Autumn fading. I’d sing
this idiot song, in our way, my
warble and warp. We lose our
papers, our poems smell of mold

and mildew, silverfish dusting the
floor boards. The world comes
towards us faster, the goldfish
swim in backwards circles and
scum at the bottom sinks into

a kind of clarity. I am desiccated
from loss, I am sure I am afraid of
someone’s body erupting, and I feel
that I am zipping ahead. You pull
me back to television and the celestial

humming, pulling everything into fire,
pulling me into an orbit of time that was
and may not have been. I leave in morning.
The night is dead, long live the night.



C. Derick Varn

C Derick Varn is a poet, podcaster, and teacher. He served as assistant editor for Arts and Letters: A Journal of Contemporary Arts, managing editor for the defunct Milkweed Review, founding editor for Former People, and was a reader for Zero Books. He won the Frankeye Davis Mayes/Academy of American Poets Prize in 2003. He is the author of the collections Apocalyptics (Unlikely Books, 2018), and Liberation, and all the other bright etcetera (Mysterioso Books, 2022). He currently lives in Utah but spent most of the last decade outside of the US. He hosts the politics, history, and culture podcast, Varn Vlog. Derick recommends the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Doctors without Borders.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, November 20, 2017 - 16:28