"In the Sunday Night News," "Unfinished Nerve," and "Knife Shop in Port"

In the Sunday Night News

We’ve seen system failures that induce archaic suffering
with the residue of belief making the place go smaller,
harpsichords banging out a tick-clock double or nothing
under the immensity of gas giants bathing in saturations,
with wheat-wrenched heaves going back to the archaic ache
in esoteric antennae having nothing to lose in primeval Pangaea,
for sleep-dive swoons have shown up nursing on squid-shot depths,
reeducated sump-pump mindfulness watching dead people stay alive,
pea pods bursting into torrents of inexorable longing that must know
the price of birth is more than costs of the labor, the way it’s been
since single-celled beings began their work on the species and dusk
has been muscling the self up in the air, when Miss Antarctica ups
and appears wearing a rapacious cape of jack-rabbit fur and emeralds
in which egg-splitting silence burns at the root of economic medicine,
as our lost gills rake across the more remote undersea sink holes
and caverns of the unconscious in flux already operating in dark
site conditions or boiling over the lip of the petroglyphic spectrum
into nutrient slimes of oyster muds bearing mixed global currents
that splash over unshelled lobes of July, past crags in the common
rostrum bled red-purple under not necessarily served reciprocity
spelled in hearts and clubs of a fin upside the head that dreams
itself full of onland nectar, having caked its slender sunlit ankles
with golden pollen where the unknowable has been broadcast
in sea-slug subsensory delivery to the soft yellow-orange mouths
of frilled sponges mending themselves into spots of cloudless roar
around Mr. Dali finally being returned to local hands, lace-trimmed
scripture heavily borrowed from corporate culture as the day cheats
up like no tomorrow, if only to be liked by the majority before stealing
away in geothermal glow, while the night’s restoration of value stays
young and heavily venting, around anyone’s means of production,
for we’ve been seeing conversions in neoclassical displays of appetite
through the vitelline membrane and zona pellucida in breakthroughs,
a sub-dimension working on a prime number to circulate rare nectar,
big-wigged aristocrats performing experiments that run cold and hot
after close brushes with assumptions of endlessness and leaf-overs
of quasi-royalty in an elk rut still afloat on the slumber-shot prime,
out in the copulative sea-orchid underfogs mocked up with liberal
Jeffersonian salts and the raucous emptiness of bowls stretching
their luck into a breaking wave of the forgotten, where light’s weight
carves into sunken stone the murky speeds of time, as fractals swerve
and turn in the knowledge we’re collecting, that quickly surpasses us,
the way it’s been today with new findings announced every waking
moment, and not about to stop around impossible-to-follow trails
of beaten-up shoes and ruined shirts, empty green bottles and spills
of oil cannisters and trance-inducing images of cut-throat materialism,
since the planet casts its kind of imperial floodlight that crosses borders
with a blanketed leftover of hundreds of tons a second of thrust in back
of a seventeen-story NASA booster burning off through the atmosphere
with its payload in a display of conviction inseparable from the whole.



Unfinished Nerve

Compulsory education continues
nonstop, over eons, at the heart
of the genome. Failure is not
an option, but a resounding
scarcity of incidence and resilience.
As it is for people, so it is for flora
and the other fauna. Neighborhoods
will be populated from the ground up,
by the smallest co-evolved beings
our unassisted eyes cannot detect,
beings that reach through indigenous
support on behalf of breathing leaves.
They explore the planet in all directions
including miles down in the crust
toward the pre-Christian iron core.
In their microscopic colonies, survival
and self-sacrifice have been true
to the nature of being in a life, unique
and yet inseparable from existence.
Gyres of origin revolve, surf-breaking,
at the first root of equilibrium, one
around one, rippling out in vibration
along branches of neural complexity.
The merged gyres widen, shivering out
into cellular creation and reclamation,
as wheat writes names of the next people
in the wind, as towering thistle plants
spike, in fibrous burrs filled with seeds
that contain plants of the marsh.
If microscopic beings were lamps,
we’d see where we are after dark
by light given off by every being alive.



Knife Shop in Port

The present, when you’ve happened into it
in a harbor-city all-makes knife shop
lit by the overhead glow of neon handwriting
naming knives, can be too hot or damn cold,
rough around the edges or smooth as silk
of antique designer parachutes strapped
to torsos of grieving miners after a cave-in
that made them jump from booster rockets
launched by business for no other reason
than growing dollar amounts on Wall Street
before leaving behind a gaseous atmosphere
of rank materialism and factual evidence.
So the present keeps silverware in the lining
of its overcoat downtown here in the all day
through night knife shop in which pipe smokers
mosey, gravitating back to the tobacco counter
to load Briars, Porcelains, and Meerschaums
with the latest acquisition from exotic schooners
so talkers with stories may tell them at the fire
pit, everyone thoughtfully puffing on a pipe
in the global aftermath of the espionage era
when you had your glib culturally sophisticated
power riddles soaked with modernist symbology
and top-secret news delivered in encryption.
While possible owners of knives push through
the shop, you can see how the present is packed
with former sailors on shore leave, jazz pianists
standing beside glass cases in which a rotisserie
rolls up demonstrated progressively larger knife
sizes, wheeling them up out of the underground
in front of the human face of the new bride
beside those who’ve sold everything they could
just to live where they’ve been a few more weeks
and those with all they want, though they forget.
Maybe standing here wearing your evening dress
or tuxedo, you figure that you understand
the present conditions, where what you know
won’t stop the present from appearing devoid
of meaning and populated with anonymity.
Maybe someone important to you has left town
or point-blank died. Or you may have arrived
but far too late. Or inexorable yearnings
have cast lots in your intrinsic innocence.
Still, the sharpest knives in the shop gleam
under viewing glass the way individuality
fills the ecosystem body with its presence
which is a natural effect of consciousness.
In the neon script that makes the shop glow
red and blue, with green shadowing violet,
a few words of the trade surface: the Bowie
for Excellence of Bear-Skinning in the Field;
the August Cleaver with Form-Fitting Grip;
the Willis Boning Knife Acclaimed for Slicing
along a Divide to Receive an Inflated Dividend;
The Swiss Metro Knife to Prepare for Any Turn
of Events, If You Must Open a Can of Beans
or Immobilize a Hot Mob with a Sound Canon;
the New Hyena Brown RMJ Tactical Nomad
with a Tungsten Cerakote Finish to Improve
Hardness; the Razor-Sharp M48 Tactical Kukri
with Stealth Sheath; and
Available Next Week:
the “Push Dagger,” “Knuckle Knife”, the Katar 
or “Punching Sword,” the “Gimlet Knife,”
Faustmesser, & Authentic “Ace of Spades.”
In the knife shop, the two eyes witness blades
as sharp as light on a remote mountain trail
which offers travelers alternatives to long days
of drudgery aimed at enabling mammoth wealth,
as it takes advantage of anyone who shows up
shopping or mentors the community’s young,
anyone who perfects use of a modern utensil
or needs a sharp edge for international trade
or launders funds before betting on dog races.



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 Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 22:15