Displaced Water

Somewhere from the diagrammatic stolon

of overgrown seagrasses, a voice carries

to the surface—to live radical compassion,

not just speak of it. The spiders still have not forgiven

me. The fish kill cited in the civil suit just a bead

in the course of stories scrolling by in my palm

like air pockets in rain—over 600,000 displaced

in Sri Lanka, two hundred dead and counting.

This is late May, 2017 AD. Flashbacks

of headlines some years back—

that heatwave which claimed some 2,000

in India but can this be more than read, felt

as the steadfast lamprey must feel, mooring

the stones of its own deathbed in the cool

lunar hollows? How it must feel, to prescribe

a burn, to watch the Oroville overflow with

predictions, the denial, no more water

in the pail! No more moon in the water!

What blame can be placed on the government

now? Someone says relief and means it.

Suppose blood could be set afire

with a simple question. Suppose we could

touch through the screen. Suppose speeding,

solitary, down the breathing highways

at the center of me, a course burns

its engine towards a future where hope

has long gone become obsolete.

Eruptions

The land knows

what we refuse to learn:

 

sometimes you must destroy

what has come before to create

new, unsullied things.

 

***

 

There are places my feet have trod

that are gone

never to be loved again.

 

The fire consumes

slowly, with enough time to flee

yet still relentless in remaking.

 

***

 

The ash like snow, blankets

the black cracked land covering

all that came before.

 

A goddess shows her children

the wisdom of destruction

 

***

 

The swordfern, the Ohia Lehua take

their first breaths, explore, make

a mission of re-seeding.

 

***

 

What comes next will be better,

and if not?

 

We burn it down again.

From the Editors: How Can I Look Up

for Michael J DeLuca

 

How can I write you this letter

 

through thick smoke the sun

a red dot in the sky

I should not be able to stare into

 

How can I make an appointment

with the car dealer

while mother Tahlequah takes

her tour of duty      displaying for us

hairless monkeys what the rest

of the natural world already knows

 

How can I take a shower

when thousands of people have poison

                              to drink

How can I look out the window at the moon

stroke my cat’s chin

                    make my bed

How can I admire the late blue background

and mountain silhouette on the ferry heading home

 

How can I take a seat on a bus

hurtling toward a city of dog-walkers     businessmen

and concerned shrugs of passers-by

it’s terrible this smoke it’s all terrible

I know          it’s really terrible      I know      I know

 

How can I bring the sleeping children home

after a long day of amusement park

fried foot-long corndogs

How can I look up my visa bill when

our relationship with the earth

is toxic

stored now in blubber

of whales that send us warnings

and raw grief

a suffocation of sound and light

in the realm of the dead

 

How can I make plans with a friend

     buy groceries          drink tea

while we are plunging toward an inevitable

tipping point

no return

extinguishing what has been

like a comet

or a cancer

or a chapter of some future history book

 

when we alter landscapes          lose habitat

when the world shrinks

gets hotter     tighter    angrier

goes hungry

 

How can I search for a lost coat

my favourite          when

we are losing                    every day

pieces of our humanity

of green

of corals and bees

and owls and streams

 

How do I rekindle passion’s poetry without falling into despair

feeling holding me there

when I exist in coffee pots          lists          renovations of the old

dish-washing          laundry          finally unpacking all my books—

finding homes for paperwork and tools

getting on them weeds in the garden out of control

testing recipes

collecting that fruit before it rots on the trees

 

How do I do the deep work

maintain connection to that slightly

MAD state

and go about my day                    lost as I long to be

 

How can I sit in an alley playing drums with a Turkish immigrant

How can I breathe smoke on the shoreline while

using my cell phone as a hot spot to

send an email about a postcard for a

talk about climate change

 

How can I sleep?

 

How can I ask a friend how I can do these things when

he says

How can we anything

 

My heart breaks because other hearts do not

my heart breaks and I go on making plans

scheduling dates

daydreaming about getting laid

calling out to alley cats

          to birds overhead

          to the leaves in the trees

 

How can I dress myself for success

add accessories

buy lemon tarts

browse antique stores

try on possible new shoes

 

my generation acquiesces to the inevitable

while millennials dream of Super Heroes

bursting through the screen

 

Somebody

do

something

do

something

I want to scream

Let go of every device in your hands

and look up                    are we going to lose

the sky          on our way to losing the sea

 

How can I leave space                    for us

to breathe

 

How can I

unbury your ears

shape a new kind of listening

to what is under our feet          and floating

still-born          (yet still hoping)

all around us                    stating the obvious

 

How can we anything          he asks while

chopping onions and peppers

to feed his young family

in the midst of idling engines

cooked rivers

air-conditioned ignorance

and addiction to machines

Will We Be Good and Kind at the End

When the long drought comes,

scorches the hands of the healers

will we bandage them

with clean white gauze

so they can continue their work

and when kindness faces starvation

will we look into our pantries

and gather, quickly

to feed her

 

when the winds come

raging and spitting

and buildings begin to buckle

at the knees,

will we rush to the labs

swing open all the cages,

release the macaques and chimps and baboons and dogs and rabbits and mice and rats

finally,

finally

 

and will someone run

and free Adam Capay

and all the others

and all the plexi-glassed

others

 

and when the sea’s belly

swells and lifts us up

above rooftops and eagle nests

will we grab hold of anything we can

and hold its head up—

try to save it

 
 

Development

First, we made sure the world was devoid of sentient inhabitants.

Its turquoise skies grew greener (we thought) as summer waned.

On the wine-dark sand we drew diagrams and planted pennants:

a cultural center here, a spa or hotel there, on an imaginary beach.

At least one of the suns was always rising, and the light perfect

for filming, as if the planet were a vast, floodlit stage. Shadows

radiated and swung like compass needles in a geometer’s dream.

Our shielded clothing and the protective coatings on excavators,

fabricators, and constructors faded quickly under the incessant

illumination. No one could agree on what the colors had become,

but we tried to name the new shades anyway: peripatetic, swelter,

welkin, shudder, grudge. All our off-world concepts lost relevance—

something about the fluctuating solar spectra. Estimated project

completion was indefinitely postponed.

 
 

A Hundred Years From Now

for Rabindranath Tagore

 

At the dawn of the 21st century

in this era of war and deaths

my soul seeks refuge in poetry

though no one writes like Wordsworth

or Keats because lakes have dried

and daffodils do not bloom to inspire

the poets—the sylvan vase no more

impresses them to find a seam

between truth and beauty

Once the world of innocence

the world Blake portrayed in his poetry

was the world readers would dream

to build—now experience fraught with

greed flares up all over

We have witnessed world wars

and read The Waste Land

still millions have taken the road

Frost declined to pass through

Now we write elegies for Aylan Kurdi

for thousands of other children too

We write poems on mass migration

on Syria, Palestine, Myanmar

on chilling Charlie Hebdo tragedy

and Manhattan massacre

or on Rana Plaza disaster

But what else should I take refuge in

if not poetry, if not the words

written for a world free from war

and violence and blood?

Sitting under a tree without leaves

by the bank of a river without water

near a field without grass

I see a young poet writing a new poem

after 100 years on tree, field, river

and flower in imagination—

imagination indeed creates poetry

From this heated globe

from the world of the dying

with this bleeding heart

I send my love to the young poet

my best wishes for a better world

Many things will be extinct after 100 years

Forms will transform

Even the deathless will be forgotten

but words will continue to live

I’m the Villain, Ok?

I want to sit in my SUV

combust dead dinosaurs

into aerosols as tangible as need

I want the Monsanto magic

    for my lawn, my Big Boy tomatoes

I want to wait in the drive-through—

    engine roaring, gas escaping,

    invisible music pumping into my box

    sealed and thus safe from the outside—

    for my chicken made of corn

    my shake made of sugar (made of corn)

    my fries fried in corn

What matters is this moment

    the right tempo to tap my fingers to

    phone surfing, wifi filling space

        from here to Saturn as the years drag on

    to know no matter how much I cut

    myself off from touch, taste, smell

    I am not alone

 
 
 

The Bull Who Bars the Gate to Heaven

The bull who bars the gate to heaven

remembers you from an instant

ago, when he stepped onto a New Mexico road

and you failed to hit the brakes.

You’re still adrenaline-charged as you confront

him again: flesh so hard it crumpled

your sedan’s hood, a skull that made

glass snow of your windshield,

and horns that pinned your hand

to the leather seat. Nobody but him

is fit to weigh your heart,

but he only stands at heaven’s gate, still

as he stood on the lonely road,

daring you, now and then, to make a move

and knowing you can’t help but barrel on.

 
 

Earthspun

A curvy-topsy tornado funneled up, not down

uprooting the sky-trees from the cumulus-sea-above

 

dumping them on the ground where they are all

dying from lack of clouds and too much media attention.

 

Greenpeace has converted several transport slings

designed for beached whales but the sky-trees keep

 

falling through the canvas no matter how much

water the volunteers eye-drop onto gravity-bitten bark.

 

Several have melted completely into the ground

leaving behind no trace but an ineffable sense of loss

 

nearby if you’re walking barefoot, with or without an Iphone.

Some, arboreally brave, linger even as they disintegrate—

 

branches split, leaves torn, roots weeping past reflection

puddles that do not splash as more volunteers march toward

 

the storm, unaware of limbs and leaves permanently earthed.

The worms try to help. Sniff a cirrus frond, they urge, lick a bog

 

of too-blue sap, finger cerulean bark. Breathe thru your cloaca.

There is no app to map a sky-fallen forest. Choose: Empty

 

urns into sky-plashets or self-immolate. What? Ashes cry

the worms, water them with ashes so their sap may rise, fly.

 

All of us belong to the sky.

 

Disintigreetings

Pepe Rojo

 

 

 

I am a writing machine. Scratch that. My memory’s not keeping up with me. Let’s start over. I am a counting machine. I count the days, I count the numbers. I count the money, and I’ve even counted the  years.  You  gain  some  you  lose  some. Dollars, I mean. Money too. Typing counting machine. One, two three, A, b, c. I type what I count. I count what I type. I type on my count. I count on my type. Can you count on yours?  P l e a s e , p l e a s e , p l e a s e   c o u n t   o n   m e . T y p e   a n d   c o u n t   o  n    m  e   .   P  l  e  a  s  e    t  y  p  e    p  l  e  a  s  e    c  o  u  n  t    p  l  e  a  s  e    t  y  p  e    p  l  e  a  s  e      p    l    e    a    s    e      t    y    p    e        p      l      e      a      s      e        p      l      e      a      s      e

 

 

 

weregrettoinformyouwehavegivenuponwalkingasyouknowwehavebeendoingitforquitesometimebutnowwereallydon’tneednorwanttowalkanymorecausewalkingisforbodiesandwehavenowmovedbeyondourselvesbeyondourbodiesandwecancommunicatewiththebirdscommunicatewiththeaircommunicatewiththesunandwecantravelcauseweareleavingourbodiesbehindtothefartheststartothetiniestquarkwearenotthereanymoreyouseewesimplyarenotthereanymorenomorewaitinginlinenomoreliesnowjustaliensintimealiensinmind

 

 

Hello,

Don’t mind if we stare. It’s perfectly understandable. We like to look. Don’t worry. We won’t skin you. We won’t flail you. We know you’re curious. And we like to look. Why don’t you come closer. Maybe you want to touch us. It’s perfectly allright. We love visitors. Come and join us. We’ll take care of you. Just join us. Don’t be shy. That’s it. You know you want to. Come closer. Closer. Even closer. That’s it. You know you like to look, you know you want to feel. Closer. Now. Just touch us. With the tip of your fingers. That’s it. That’s better. Now stay. Here. Stay. Yes. Yes.

 

 

Yes.

 

Hello,

You sick fuck. You fuck sick. Dick my suck. You brick. You pitch. Duck my sick. You suck. You fuck. You frick. You sick suck. Sick sick fuck.

Wait.

am  i  mad?  i  am  mad.  i  am  mad.  i  am  dam.  i  am mad mad am i i am mad am mad am mad am i am a dam am i a mad mad am mad am i mad am i madamadammadam am   i   mad   dam   madam   am   i   mad   mad dammm   damm   damm   damm   damm   damm   damm damm    damm    add    mad    madaddamaddamaddam dam    mad    madmadmadammadmadmadammadam    i

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos were shot at different so-called visionary environments, usually built over a long period of time by untrained and unschooled artists. Part landscape artists, part architects, they usually decorate and modify their dwelling spaces without a definite plan and scavenge their materials from their surroundings, giving them a second life as part of their architectural inventions. Their work usually involves deeply personal visions and religious-aesthetic experiences, problems with neighbors and near family, and usually ends with their death.

They are unofficial cathedrals of our strange times.

 

Photos 1 and 4 were taken at Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, Pennville, Georgia, 2010.

Reverend Howard Finster worked for almost 40 years (1965-2001) in his Paradise Gardens, focusing mainly on religious outreach. His production, besides the Garden, was enormous (more than 10,000 drawings). I visited Paradise Gardens almost a decade after his passing, and as it usually happens with these kind of places, when the artist’s death keeps them from working on the place, his environment was being over-run by (or maybe returned to) Nature.

 

Photo 2 taken at Vince Hanneman ‘s Cathedral of Junk, Austin, Texas, 2012.

Vince Hanneman has been building his cathedral out of 60 tons of junk on his back garden since 1988, mainly because it was fun. He had to tear down his 200-TV pyramid due to building inspectors’ recommendations, but he turned it into a “zen garden of TVs”.

 

Photo 3 taken at Haw Par Villa, Singapore, 2012.

Built in 1937 by the Burma-born Aw brothers, creators of the medical ointment Tiger Balm, Haw Par Villa is a mythological theme park containing more than a thousand sculptures, drawing from both the Buddhist and the Chinese tradition. The main attraction is the gruesome “10 Courts of Hell”. This photo was taken right at the entrance of the ten courts.

 

Photo 5 taken at José Gómez Hernández’s La Casa de los Monos, 2016.

Pepe Gómez spent more than ten years pasting and hanging discarded toys on his house after his wife died, and became a local legend. He even says that some of the toys used to speak and make noises. He left the house in 2012, but the ruins remain. Time and minor fires have made them even more uncanny in sadder ways.