What the wind breaks it also carries
– branches, fields, cities, the question
“What key’s been made that won’t be turned?”
In October your mother waddles with you
curled and wet and dumb inside her down
the aisles of the A&P, cart rattling
with canned creamed corn, condensed milk, Blatz
for your father who, like all American fathers, will
this evening fill every tub and sink with water
drowning Brinkley, Smith and Cronkite, a whiskey
sour no match for cortisol, adrenaline contrails
trailing B-58s and footage of Khrushchev and his shoe.
In Cuba, ivory-bills pluck weevils from the slash, Russians
flinching at the jungle flash of color, tinny
trumpet calls of a bird so huge they joke
it could drop their warheads for them. In camo-net shadows,
SS-4s and San Cristobal’s dirt. On the red-finned
Valiant’s radio, The Tornados play “Telstar”
as she glides down sapling curves of Suburban Drive,
guitars that sound like satellites if satellites were guitars.
But the song’s no good. Every crease and crinkle makes her cringe.
This will last for years.
At home the sitter’s turns duck-and-cover into a game
for sister, little red leaves, a wagon.
Between Playboys your father hid
that copy of Popular Science which said:
“Chances are, you’ll be on your own.”
He can almost see the roentgens glimmer in the air. Still,
the Bears are 3-1, Dragnet’s on, or will be,
and at the Sky-line Drive-in, Day of the Triffids,
wool blankets and cigarettes and popcorn and a flask.
We’ve talked our extinction to death. No one
in Indiana has read Robert Lowell. It’s Defcon 2,
and mother will stop smiling after you’re born.
There will be others, of course, the strangenesses sweeping through
your body, the house, a squall line of infected time : running
through glass, his mother’s lithium and shock, the face
in the curtain, your sister’s bloody foot. And that
silhouette in the bedroom door you’ll never stop dreaming,
screaming toward the hallway of the world, the place
where stories tremble first from terror corded into you
then toward resignation, such failures of coherence, or, rather,
coherence of the ciphers you have lately sought
(and made more of) to find your calm
not in purpose, not in meaning, but in these
sounds that fill the times between.
You searched for: elegy, then for ode
These are the things of the morning : liquid
pterodactyl, sunshine toxic, alveoli made hazy
with commutation. Inversions dull
the Wasatch like too much 3.2.
Coyotes edge woad. Sausage by semi, coffee
by Boeing, roofs newly shingled
glint fractures in a kestrel’s eyes.
Indicative of transmission: bars and spinning
icons, tones that interrupt. On a derrick’s lattice,
starlings perch in strange legations.
You’ve misplaced the seasons like car keys.
You watch a warm November on cruise.
Though something like fall scabs the ancient shoreline hills,
though resignation is unsurprise, the bones
of birds at the Great Salt Lake
are still hollow, steam still seeps
from a cheatgrass median, I-15’s little Yellowstone.
Beyond the faceted spurs, past bedrock salient,
in Tintic quartzite canyon waters, a dipper plunges
in the dark, water rising round her head
in a cirque as silver as glaciers
hung above Lake Bonneville. Decisions
mob everyone to breathe. Filaments attenuate.
How many speeds in this account?
Stansbury woke one Sunday morning in 1849
and wrote: ... the lake with is peaks ranges & islands
lay before us ... in great & peculiar beauty.
Flying Clouds, Arizona
Green wind slides bone
around desert marrow, lets the season
get its muscle back.
Everything walks again.
Coyote shakes clean.
The river runs one-day wet
past every underpass
bedroll, and every willow thrashes.
Methane’s flexing lens
leaks above the mines,
trashy sheen. Clouds
– black basalt catches
shadow, welcome basin.
Windows slide open
to the city’s rainbow
– the xylophone of forgetful rain.
[Christopher Cokinos is the author of three books of literary nonfiction, including, most recently, the lyric essay collection Bodies, of the Holocene. The winner of a Whiting Award, among other prizes, he has had prose and poetry in such venues as Poetry, TYPO, Pank, New Delta Review, Salon, Orion, Ecotone, Science and Extrapolation. A current manuscript, The Underneath, was a recent semi-finalist for the Vassar Miller Prize. The three poems published above are from a new manuscript, The Archive of Obsolete Futures.]
Copyright © 2015 by Christopher Cokinos, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.