"The Roar from Down the Road," "Waters," and "Shuffling a Deck of Melted Cards"

The Roar from Down the Road

That clamor out of the East, what’s coming down the road, it sounds
        like the time ahead is made out of titanium with ten thousand
        gargantuan devices of trash collection rumbling
        on each future block fueled by inconceivable grief.
It’s elephantine, the roar, more being touched inside out than hearing
        sound, a kind of cold current rolling like the ocean through rock
        of the planetary mantle then splashing out of the ground,
        countless speared pachyderms crashing down on their sides.
That roar, weather transformed by the ice melt in the air, magnificent
        animals fall crashing, great trees of forests in climax cracking
        in a booming thud on the forest floor, every original old-growth tree
        lost hundreds of times over erased in an instant without replacement.
It’s the ocean sound of no replacement that attends death, one at a time,
        one gasoline explosion engine at a time and then the next,
        adding up to this racket, with every chain saw in Mississippi
        and Kansas buzzing, severing the habitat from its foundation.
Tens of thousands of sea lions in hollow rock coves, tens of thousands
        of big African cats locked in zoos, and tons of military donkeys
        are braying out of the Bible with propagation and suffering.
It’s in a squall, this place by the road, where trucks are hauling secret
        ingredients to an invisible facility, as molten iron pours
        from taps until kitchens cave in to Iron Age crawl spaces.
Iron Age rhinos built out of iron must be charging down iron stairwells
        then bashing past the metal door at the bottom of the stairs
        to reach tens of thousands of electric guitars being broadcast
        from high-rise Fender amps for such intensity to be audible here.
Armies of liquified hillsides must be collapsing in bald mouths of scared
        ventriloquists shouting vacuous deafening blurs at the place
        where the sun sets, the Anthropocene braying, rumbling in mantle
        from state to state, engines exploding, wrecking balls bashing
        at remorse the shape of immense apartment houses buried in air.

 


 

Waters

Shoulders of a blue whale follow after the spout,
and a lifetime passes                                                    in the dive,                                  
                                                                                  mists prisming
                                                                    that return to thundering pulse
 
                before the individual’s tail splashes out
                    on the surface of sound
             over unreachable depths, waters with the magnetic draw
 
                                                     of sharks, hydromedusa parachuting
                                                     over salt-sea pastures, the sea floor
                                                     rearranging scripts in the Tantric hum,
 
                           the body breathing on its own, the wisdom of seawaters
   delivering massive circulation to the inhalation of smallest cells alive,
 
in the rush of momentum heavy with horses
the ancestors once took care of,             where the heavier remain buoyant
 
                                  the way we were when we first learned how to learn,
 
           when rain fell within blood, the skin breathing
                                                  out of wants in the river of choosing
 
                        from more than we could know of croplands
                        in force field haloes of a Giotto
                        behind an ancestral altar of mercy,
 
   mercy we need to grant and receive in the face of climate chaos
           and a Sixth Mass Extinction
 
           when we’ve wanted to accept this life.

 


 

Shuffling a Deck of Melting Cards

At the door, wanting credit for whole periods of history
are numbers of characters we met in grammar school,
back when learning eclipsed understanding. Suddenly
who knows what ferocity and sweetness have undergone
refinements instantaneous as salmon-swim hope, explosive
as the guillotine drop of mountain-top memory suspended
in passages sharpened on the grinding wheel of indivisibility?
 
As this time wheels on thin ice and equatorial tiger tongues,
doesn’t every moment race ahead of its locomotive weight
to reach the ancestral house hog-tied to a titanium spoke?
Does everything revolving always have to roar? Could this be
one more long-term effect of ancient religions forever launching
away from likely extinction at the hands of gargantuan forces?
 
So molecular engines of polar abrasion enwrap the Antarctic
over land where luminous feathered dinosaur cultures loom,
locked below visible matter. So tropical fractal streams unfold,
currying terrestrial camouflage of co-evolved pairs in the spectra
of risks. In the nerve-center sky, light reverberates, as cells keep
working on the brain. It’s clear the present consists of readiness,
that little about people and global air could have been different.
 
But the next present hasn’t surrendered, for nothing’s inevitable
where nothing’s been. What lifts in the blood searches through
space for signs of life. Where half of this day has been night,
half of the night remains some kind of Bodhisattva emptiness.
 
While half of the emptiness is catastrophic courtesy, half consists
of intricate self-organized weavings of microorganisms with cells,
supporting the shoulders of elephants and the bellies of sea otters.
Therefore, the cells reach from the root into half-charred accounts 
for root-core precision that lets the compass point to wild grasses
and up-rocked artistry in the roost chatter of grackles just back
from corn-splashed yards. In an eye-going instant, days thicken
with collective origin. In the air is the spiraling delivery of pulse,
where the unconditional long-range center primes and overflows.

 

 

James Grabill’s work appears online at Terrainonline, Calibanonline, Ginosko, Sequestrum, and others. He has written the books Poem Rising…. (1994) and An Indigo Scent… (2003) from Lynx House Press, and Sea-Level Nerve: I (2014) & II (2015), Wordcraft of Oregon. He has written a new collection from Cyberwit in India: Branches Shaken by Light. For many years in Portland, he taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, October 13, 2022 - 22:10