"Speed Learning," "Mammoth Thermals," and "Riffs on Who"

Speed Learning

Not that everyone is able to act
the way it used to be
when everyone wore a mask
in service to a uniform.
Not that everyone has finished
their volume on the reason they’re here.
Not that everyone’s going about their business
without running afoul of their purposes.
Not that everyone is able to read
what’s before them, or is able to wake up
the way it ought to be, so that the day just flows
while every actor co-creates the script.
Not that everyone is able to eat
what they want without leaving trails
of bulldozed hills and chemical spills,
exploded oil trains and hostile takeovers
of corporations with their heads in chairs.
Not that it isn’t possible to see where we’ve been,
from the presence of superimposed grids
to professional encampments
across the borders of a country
while something crucial to our survival
reaches out to answer the call
for donations to Give to the Rich Who Need More.
In view of this and more, the otherworldly
nihilism of Putin is nothing,
with nothing for you to know,
nothing to tie you down
or to be seen brewing up on maps
of surveillance. Relax, not everyone
can be a master as powerful
and rich as Putin, whose learning progressed
at high speeds of the Cold War
showing no signs of sentimentality.



Mammoth Thermals

Hauling heavy crude in its tankers through the renaissance dome
of this city sky, through the thrill of a simple tall glass of water,
through cathedrals of tall Doug firs in small neighborhood parks
on the banks of pulsing instantaneous pole-to-pole magnetic arcs,
with bulldozed amnesia, the serious truck
             of blowtorch Air Force jets flying low,
occult coincidence in many oil-hot
             libraries losing their points,
             ideas on loan in the divorce of heavens-no
and hell-yes in the naked fresco sky,
             and, yes, we’ve noticed warming…
weaving transmorphic cognition into home-grown accompaniment
invented by local tree frogs in molecular mists of weight-bearing,
in synchrony with sad future sounds of the west wind crossing
with Great Plains sand dunes decades over the horizon, rolling
over a scaffolding of tractored-in devices of 20th century irrigation  
on automatic, in the shine with farmers squinting and the mother
of sons in cockpits of Air Force jets roaring their blowtorches low
overhead, the underground driving us faster, explosion engines
replicating themselves this instant I can see a great grandfather
who traveled by horse calling paved roads and time-clock gravity
a form of madness, the great grandfather who never did give up
looking his transportation in the mammal eye, with sudden arrivals
passed down through the agency of ancestral diplomacy and oceanic
sleep with intricate inextricabilities invested in the serious truck
of mineral drift back in the rock of the dusk gone down when rising
out of decades before science became dawn and breathing was more
than willful, a particle-wave resilience 360° spun out to the surface
of being the way the original cells gave us shape through longing
to be your meaning, shape reaching out in the lightning concourse
through which travelers never stop dragging in more vinyl luggage
but a Greyhound will still abandon
             Jesus in Tucson, then
reboard him in molecular Cincinnati,
reuniting him with his dark luggage
             and old world remains
             in the present collapsing
             at the edge of a seismic roar,
until daylight’s on fire between the poles, through entanglement
where cravings have long blended in with minutia, however clear
anyone’s old-faced future birth and ghost death may be, muscular
with bearing that unfolds behind assumptions soaked with melting
elevations, where modern understanding seems mostly unprepared
for uncertainty starting up not exactly as an occurrence but a variable
in genetic architecture, a sighting sheep-shank naked as half-dissolved
selfhood tooling a van down split-open roads on petrol maps leading off
to bulldozed amnesia for the remote future, as for lesser-known ways
animals taste this air buoyant with transience, the centuries shattering
in place, where meanings have grown out of nuclear negative positives
found guilty of exposures to pleasure as innocent as the earliest music
conservatory chambers have still been sounding out their violin bows
while someone on TV is going
             if this is where a forest stood,
now we have the modern miracle
             of lumens, with so many people
walking around with their cravings
             for something better  
muscled over cat-gut strings, firing Beethoven into swells of immensity
where chemistry takes its toll, immense icebergs calving, neuro-cellular
machinery hotter than the early Roman numerals down darkened aisles
leading to diesel locomotives blaring a red-scarlet airport alert, lowering
the lid on daily acetylene torchlit news splashing down to the sea floor
with groans of bridge steel twisting under a full collapse of encyclopedic
historical societal bliss that owns sky-blue Byzantine milks thundering
in through economic bedrooms, whether or not we’re still sitting here,
assembling the ancestral nest one capillary strand and then the next
with woven lamellar shavings, peels of flinders, or in-sutured twines
and live cilium yarns of vesture, the iron train of progress only so long
that no one could count the bituminous gondola cars at the crossing,
where if it’s Mr. Pavlov calling up for capitalism,
             one can be pushed hard
toward thrills of the herd or pleasing forebears
who allow risks to fall on backs of descendants. 
And haven’t we all been sublimely warned
             about keeping our horses
             untethered around bouts of Pavlovian reactivity
making the mammoth place home, where how much desire withdraws
over the centuries, around overheard hornets thickening with future
tense, their spike-haired fuselages trembling in museum monotones  
as a blue jay jumps to a limb, its original stillness turning inside out,  
Amazonian cinders taking thermals into stone contemplation rooms.
             iron blood-pumped lungs blown fuses blues.



Riffs on Who

Generations will imprint on things as they find them,
releasing specialists in the culinary arts and sciences,
translators of will and reason, able-headed caretakers
of bovine mother herds, seers who view through flame,
word thinkers and hunters of captains, ship dwellers
and cliff readers, with record numbers of emergency
truckers who wear the uniform, voyagers until Paris,
bliss-windowed unwalled PSYOPS volunteer volitionists
beside smokestack think tank and bovine enthusiasts,
lobby swallowers and the contemplators consortium
on sides of fine black-box fixers and come-what-pays
rushing on heavily trafficked boulevards, parachutists,
Andorran humpback whale regarders, hoe-chopping
and tractoring sophisticates, personal aircraft hopers,
partners and were-walkers, double-drummed sounders
and flash clinicians, rumination adventurers, chance
space-time officials, French-lick trench mud scoopers,
keepers of reputation, restoration songbirds, experiential
meditators, athletic boot-lacers and tick-clock removers,
for the prestidigitator assemblage, whiskey knitters union,
reception that’s liable to break into bell-ringing totalism,
the spongers and springers in brazen inhalation crowds
and wind panelists, saucer communicators and arpeggio
imposters, jugglers balanced, irascible trickers, borderline
magicians, floating insiders, as sand-dusters and ongoers,
hand-held morticians, reverse engineers and engine part
polishers, sister stoma talkers and hair trainers, rabbit
boilerplate cataract and yowling nectarine public trusts,
shucked chemistry callers and bemoaned over-yonders,
with prefrontal pulsatile projectile unspent pore-bearers
around post-harmonic steeple looters, sensorium porter
performers, alien thermonuclear advisors, Crazy Eights
handlers, proxi suppliers, sin spotters, vegetable shakers,
effervescing dogmatists, and bus-driven superconductors.



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 7, 2024 - 21:12