"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.
Shoulders of a blue whale follow after the spout,
and a lifetime passes in the dive,
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 poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and online at Calibanonline, Terrainonline, 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.