Tuesday, November 4, 2008

cold streak

always there is somebody dying
a little bit in every breath
in every turn of the wrist
a withering

it is fall perhaps
that makes us barren
or the wind
whatever name you wish to call her

do not snap
in two

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A New Order Of (complete)


To call it yours. To call anything proprietary.

What it means to be sentient, to be afraid.

Lanky and feathered, buzzard attempted to gather firelight.

He failed. We often do.

Spider thought her web into being. She had the light of the moon, but she too craved fire. Elaborate in her arrangement of limbs, she set off toward the amber horizon to gather it. The others nodded, smiled, followed the periphery.

All biological systems are porous, dependant upon some kind of exchange. When spider brought the people fire, her once black back pulsed with a new orange light. The people feared the worst. That she was aflame. That she had return without.

Physics has its own explanation for things. There is no buzzard or spider but always there is fire. Without it there would be no beginning or end, no attachment to the story.

Imagine the world is in fact cleaved, a split in spider’s back. Beneath the red glow is a viscous fluid. Swim into to it. Who knows what you’ll find.


There are four families of primates in the new world. Scientists believe that platyrrhini migrated across the Atlantic Ocean to South America some 40 million years ago on a raft of mangrove. New world monkeys differ from old world monkeys primarily in the nose and teeth. Platyrrhini is the flat nosed one with twelve premolars instead of eight. These were formed after months of eating only the bark of the mangrove raft. Even now they sometimes hang from the limbs of trees by their teeth. But it is the prehensile tail, that most wondrous limb, that make the new world primates so strange to behold. Up there in the tree she is beckoning you with a flick of her tail. It is as strong as your arm, but more supple, the surface soft with fur. If you could you would swing yourself up to her. You are the same order but a different family. You lack the arboreal. She is preternaturally flirtatious. This should serve as a warning to you. But you are entranced by the movement of her furred appendage. Come she says and somehow without limb or flight you do.


The Americas span eight percent of the earth’s surface. Everywhere, there is water. You are all wetness, some tearing of. This is only a phenomenon of the body. Your mind has utterly left you alone. What is it to be sentient and not sapient, to hold oneself subjectively but to lack apperception, that tingling sensation at the base of your neck? In desperation, South America broke free of the supercontinent Gondwanaland. Where else was there for it to go? Then came the volcanoes, the endless erosion. An entire world was formed. When you let her inside of you, you became isthmus, this fingering of. Later she would dredge you, make a canal of your intestines, sail clear through.

The people of the new world were migrant workers. The people of the old were too. This is what it means to be conscious, to bridge past and present, self and environment, to pull oneself through. But always there are reminders. The Americas never could shake free of the cartographers, the biologists with their endless collection jars. You cannot shake yourself free of the weight, this longing for.

Amerigo Vespucci renamed himself after Amerike, a merchant who financed explorations across the oceanic expanse. To be closer to the continents. To be of and from. To be with her and to forget everything else. To hold her and name this geography your own.

The Americas are rimmed with mountains. Between lay vast plains. In the north, there are protestants everywhere. Even the immense river basin cannot wash the land free of them. What has been sacrificed still bleeds in the mountainside. The rest is leeched white. A blanketing or blizzard of. These puritans of the new world.


There are many means of differentiation. To order yourself according to. To sort then judge. Taxonomy is a hierarchical arrangement. You learned this early, but somehow misunderstood hierarchy’s relationship to gender. Who could imagine that the parameters of girlhood could be so narrow? This is a problem of being; some make a study of it. Others fuck their way through, the knowledge of how being more fun than the knowledge of why. In either case, the nomenclature differs, but the effect is the same.

Pay attention to the color and texture of your tongue. This is predictive; it is diagnostic. In the center strip is a narrow groove. Many have been caught in it. Sometimes your mouth is too full to chew. This is how you learn the limits of your heart. When she follows the curve of you there is both slippage and some wooded place, what birds hatch the sky into. You call yourself wing, a feathering, but cannot navigate the wind. Any impediment really is enough to make you forget your own classification.

Without order there is some confusion about cause and effect. But you will always have metaphor. Somewhere in this juxtaposition is the capacity to transform. Your tongue riot with. Each exhalation, the birth of another century, its violent form.


As if. And so. The night is only this. Always there are sirens. Injuries big enough to slip the whole world into. The city swells with them.

In the darkness, the buildings sway as if limbs. But it is we who are entangled. In daylight it is easier to see the doorways are empty. No one is seated in the chair.

I claimed to whisper the trees into being. You took responsibility for the stars hovering. Somewhere in between is the story I am not telling you.

Our imagination binds us. The world could be nothing more than dawn’s pink light. I have renamed myself mourning or morning or night no more. The dawn is non responsive. There are too many of us who claim this side of the earth over that one, whatever is temporarily facing the sun. If we could travel our whole lives in pursuit of it, we would have nothing more than. We would be. And so.


The birds tend to flicker. Dawn does. Then the city. As if no one. The fog is almost family. It gets under your skin.

Even your dreams have discovered themselves hiding. A deliberate obscurification. You make too much of the differing. The shifting hues. We are all our own worst. Call it what you will. In this we are common.


No one would wish such a thing. Or we all do. To claim everyone you have ever known. To pretend you can see the thread of. There is nothing really. Proximity. Time. The tendency of things to carry on like that. If you were to simply move to another table you would find the same glassware, the same wilted carnation. Call the woman sitting closest to you by the name of your dead not mother and carry on as if she was someone you once loved. There was so much you never got to say. Forget the petty complaints. Tell her she was handsome, remote, a little without. You both are.


In the beginning there was life – or always life – and latter it was named as such. To call each day something different and test its relationship to the previous. To restrict ourselves to what is known.

When I was eight I saw Jesus in the back seat of my mother’s yellow Corolla. He looked just like the bible school coloring books depicted him, long-haired, smiling. I stroked his beard, asked him for small corrections. A new bicycle, a different childhood. He never said a word.

Others are more often visited by Mary, the blessed one. Her apparition appears in rocks, the fa├žade of buildings, beneath the bows of an olive tree. Always, she is the nurturer, the supplicant. But I imagined myself the only boy in a family of girls. I chose Jesus, the son, because he presented a morphology I longed to call my own.

To many of us have learned to name ourselves according to our placement on the arc. So many pairs of things. Noah was adamant about the gender restrictions. But there was no time to check every animal that walked up the plank. Inevitably it was the chimpanzee. All those budding female primates, it was easy enough to slip in between. If only she had been a little less hairy. If only she had not spent so much time touching herself. Everything had been preordained, but nothing could be predicted. When Noah tried to toss her off the arc, the other apes revolted. In the scuffle, the arc listed, cracking the hull in two. Many were lost to the murky waters. But not the chimpanzee. She is with us still, or rather her legacy, the capacity to.


The Sundarbans have always been unstable. To be born. To gain and loose with every tide. The tigers do not mourn the silt and erosion. They are amphibious. Being adaptive has not assured their survival. Pollution and deforestation are as rapacious as dusk.

Weather was once an oral history. Now we know the exact temperature of the ocean, the rising levels of the sea. We can predict which islands will be swallowed by water. Chart drought through a lattice of empty riverbeds that have begun to crack and bleed.

There are other markers of our evolution. An intolerance of the things we cannot see. To say humans are distinct in their desire to understand and influence the world around them would be to miss the point entirely. That is what sentience means. The Bengal Tiger is the largest of the world’s cats. She swims quickly against the tide. If hungry she will eat lizards, fish, a villager who has lost his way. But she cannot eat the world free of sapiens, self named as wise or knowing, those who with thumb and tool wreck the very ground beneath their feet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

from Notes to Nomenclature


I should begin with adik, with reindeer and caribou. To know the geography of it, to start with its features.

Your face is this blur of fur and antler.

My story is the history of frontier, a wooded terrain. We could not see each other through the cacophony of trees. But I could hear you breathing. Some kind of wind the nose sings. Adze is a way of stripping the layers of. When the skin is stripped from muscle, cleaved from bone.

Agawaatese is not the sound but the shadow. An interception of light.


Offering. I have only this. A life without footprints.

From the rooftop anything is possible. Free of ground and its gravities, there is no track of your departure. I found a book of two tongues from which I describe twilight. I too am this in between thing.

Miziwekamig is not earth. It is adverb; it is strewn about and across. Aki is the name by which the earth is called in secret, what I would have whispered into the soft yield of your belly if you had remained. Now, alone, I could call the world akiiwan, this celestial body. To be gravity and mass, to cling to what you know. I would have given you this, my slippery tongue, but you were walking backward toward the edge of the rooftop. Beyond you was the emptiness of horizon, asphalt, another inanimate future self.


Dawn is not self referential. Neither is dusk. If I could speak this, if I could, anishinaabe-gaagiigido.

I know only what language makes possible. A tenuous transmission of. I could describe it as inendaagozi or inendaagwad, but meaning is something else entirely. To be remembered is not to hold the idea of oneself, some bundled thing wrapped against the cold.

You once said that nouns were for accumulation, for bartering and trade. Use everything you can, you said. I have laid out all my assets on the rooftop. There is some duplication, an echoing of. In which language should I describe the different parts of me? Inzid, my foot. There is another.

By dusk the buzzards have blanketed the sky overhead. There is shadow and body, memory and mass.

I have sorted the dismembered pieces of me according to their function. Apendage is crowded, but indengway has no one beside her. What can one do with a face? Peel back the skin and her features are indistinguishable. Remove nishkiinzigoon and, now sightless, she is without point of view.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

from Notes to Nomenclature


It is true, I have spent all my ammunition. I am unarmed on the rooftop, the site of your absence from.

Below the world is its own clamoring. When akiwenzii, the old man, settles in the doorway, he fills it with his accumulation, a lifetime of. I am not the only one watching. Behind the flowered curtain is my neighbor, a woman whose life is a fearful surveillance. A half an hour later, the police have come. I am like mizise, a bird hovering.

Below the world repeats itself. A policeman kicks akiwenzii’s legs, which in sleep have protruded beyond the shadow of the doorway. I shout from the rooftop, nimishoo, grandpa, but akiwenzii does he not to hear me. The other man takes out his nightstick and waves it across the spread of disastrous belongings. Akiwenzii gathers his legs, but does not flinch. Every uniform is a reference to its violent origin. Akiwenzii is old enough to know the etymology.

Nimishoo is the one whose own family called him other. His mother said as much, even without the stink of history on her breath. When he was twelve, his uncle gave him a pet lizard and a waagikomaan, a hooked knife, something to split the life from. For his gifts, uncle made certain requests. Simple things really, a touch, a brief opening. Only later did nimishoo learn to read his life according to the shape of another man’s intestines.

Who can say what it means to be spent, empty of. In one move, akiwenzii lifts himself to his knees and draws the knife across the policeman’s waist. He grabs the mess of entrails as a talisman against the other. Nimishoo knows the world is flat. More than once, he has fallen off.


One quarter of rams prefer the horned, the horny male of their species. Older studies of human mammalian behavior found something closer to one in ten. What the ewe desires is anybody’s guess. If you sheer the coat of wool you will find tender pink flesh. Beneath your coat, you are desiccant, unyielding. You are that which cannot, won’t. You are only what you refuse to be. To quell is to rattle until the pen breaks. The ewe will choose her own direction. She is warm and fat. Her whiteness is bright against the green hills. Maanishtaanish have been called simple, docile, flock. But she is alone and grazing up toward the mountain’s spine. When night calls the wolves howl. She tucks her legs beneath her white coat and dreams of men, penned and naked, bleating like sheep.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

from Worst Case

In the Elevator...

The elevator is the last frontier. There are Indians and buffalo. Bring your shotgun and something to roast over the fire. You are Custer and Geronimo, Red Bull and General Jackson. Cross-pollination creates genetic diversity. You are in the elevator. You will not breed. The buffalo are hiding in the mountainside. The Indians are inside your skin. There are two types of elevators, hydraulic and cable, of which the hydraulic is most likely to fall. The lights go out. In the darkness you can hear someone breathing beside you. When the elevator door closed, you were alone. Now you are not. We all have relatives living inside of us, beside us. When the elevator begins to fall, drop to your stomach; cover your head. Don’t worry about the person breathing beside you. No one survives an elevator fall. If you die without breeding there will be one less Indian. Indians are important. Without Indians, team mascots would be reptiles and four legged mammals. Without Indians, there would be no popcorn. There was a movie about an Indian. She steered the canoe. She was from a different tribe; you wouldn’t have understood one another. But she knew better than to get into a hydraulic elevator. That was one of the lessons you lost along the way. The other lesson was more esoteric. Something about humility or was it history. Listen to your ancestor. She is on the floor beside you. She is holding your head in the crook of her arm.