♦ Exquisite Corpse

Among Clouds of Dust, Only Mountains—a Garden

We have dwelt here before, ὀποπάναξ in the dust, always obscured
you wiped it from my eyelids with a fingertip roughed by salt and trigger
the Khyber Pass, Oberjoch, just beyond Klaipaida, Valhöll, we split open
our mouths and taste spit, dust, iron, blood. The Shema and Ne’ilah. Ashes,
soil, flesh, the burnt petals of climbing roses, attar, opopanax hebbakhade
          sealing the slit of the gate of the ridge of a pass not yet passed

the scent of unfeathered birds who have flown here from what they fled
there is salt on your fingers and my face, and dust, salted This garden is
not as it seems. Galdhøpiggen. Janazah. Viryta. Krupnikas. In the land
where nothing grows for the pleasure of the human, we find it. This garden
is πάναξ, is necessary, its iron and honey, roughened for touch. Unseen,
          and unseeable, and yet here we dwell, spilt, again, and once again.

Again we speak of clouds as though they pass – as though
they’re only passing we inhabit the dust that is a saddened
manna, nourishing and unearned blessings exhumed between two rising
flanks of stone, bruised, diluvial our skin torn and salted but we are
even older than our skins, tears, dust
          when we first wiped each others’ eyes, this possibility did not exist.

They say this year is the worst so far.
They’ve always said that,
the blood moon,
a plague of crickets,
          an asteroid made of chilled cookie dough.

But this summer was the hottest on record.
Clots of dandelion wool smothered us in our sleep.
It’s true,
Some days it feels like my ears are underwater drains,
stale fish tanks,
          the kitchen sinkhole gunged up.

There are suds on my lashes,
mites in the wind,
quiet like freight trains in the dark.
And I can’t blink any of it clear.
Tomorrow hums like a manuka swarm,
          fades slippery as steam verses.

I hold my breath and push,
knuckles in my eye sockets,
like I can dig my way outta this.
I open the doors of the classroom
and interrupt doctors at work on my brain
          corpses seep from the gymnasium

a grave lit by a candle, that is my mother’s womb.
Our bodies manufacture terrors, trauma-cells
neat and organized as mail printouts, incessant hormonal news.
Our marrow is packed with jars of fears,
well-preserved. Of course, there is no sun, no wind, no
          water we have no room.

But—I know a tree named Esmerelda
who grows in the park and waits
all winter for me to lie beneath her
while she weeps white petals over my body.
Fish gulp our urine, our antidepressants, our estrogen.
          Our blood runs sluggish, packed with neatly combed death.

But I know a dog park bathed in sun—
trees, a stream, curtained windows—
if only I could get there.
If only I could rip off your shirt and smoke
this grass-stained cigarette as the lights
          come on, then go off, then come on again

this yellow, then blue, then yellow afternoon…
Behind me though I think I hear
one of those driverless cars drawing near
and the road flickers in front of me
as the car turns its headlights off and on.
          The passenger door falls open

and from within I see a stranger laughing
at you like a god while I stand here
cigarette dead in my mouth
green and shaking, speechless…
The green one chokes down loads and cells
          down its polar gorge black, blacker

with neither thirst, neither fullness, with not
crucifying hunger but its aspect:
Flakes of food bind crazed electrons as
garbage bags ants, touch off flâneurs, the misery
of moving/not moving, the grief of living locked
          out and in by use, by use shaken

black out the dream of speech’s blood:
we promenade dry seas in vacuums of time
abhorred by thine own heart, for in the cells
where thirsts are locked up blood drops iron
dives from star to sky, blood to star—
          neither thirst, nor fullness: there is no end

of all the people, (even of all), the green, the black
green can’t be made red, shaking blood: speech
winds in changing gyres in changing
skies changing and shaking like desires—
dig, digging the desirepot
          irontrace on wood limbs

bodies pang the timber
pitchers of cause in melt
pebbleberg wreaks the shovel. Bury
in spiritline’s rift

the glassposts built
soil digs, in soilways.
Limbs cut the middle of
Soil-light migrates the touch
          fingerholds thread the flatbush

small green stumps penetrate
in burning self-swelled hands
floodlicked in rustbelts
siltrag hangs on the crust
wipe softly off that wall, unpeg those clouds
          from the line they’ve been hanging on for a while.

To sigh and eyeroll over this crumbling mess of
emotional labour is the tacit lament.
The question is no longer whether it is a urinal
or is not a pipe, rather who’s turn it is to clean it.
These everyday domestic hauntings unfold
          an ambient sound, enough to understand

that gender is still wrapped up in scare quotes
or folded quickly away in the middle drawer.
Situated action of non-cleaning is not enough
nor is wandering arcades of the social.
The story becomes one of digital wayfaring
          through co-present awkwardness our fluid and portable self.

A commute that begins quietly, foggy morning.
Low murmour of podcasts, tapping keyboards.
Constant throb and horizontal splattering of rain,
the inaudibility of landscape through glass.
Shared failure is the teenage death at the broken
          rail crossing. The countless suicide attempts

of those left only the choice of disrupting a system
they no longer feel part of. Four hour delay. The operatic
groans when there is no mobile service, no email.
More people get on,
and more
          and more.