1: Humanize / Calibanize
after Fady Joudah
Somnambulant towns sleep in
lunar hypotonic bounce,
hypnotic under pneumatic
business percussing semiautomatic;
gather found phrases like altar stone,
wait for godlight to animate them;
jailbroken Skinner rats gnawing
maize circles from despair; exiles
from algebra unfurling the tennisfield tarp
of breath: the gosling skein of vapor
an armor against the sky
and false weathermen, fighting to
reassure as the typhoon eats them live.
Detergent stripes of police jeeps
balkanize the dark; their toothpaste
tasers whitening it, or trying to.
Jigsaw necropolis: mortise / tenon urns,
mantel crematorium, ash mortar as the
dead, and industrious morticians,
outnumber the living. Gryphons
guard the chainlink possession from the back
of deathmarches, as we crumb the yard snow.
Only I, at the head, have survived
to tell this to you, my arms full of spirits.
They injure / conjure, sleepwalkers wake,
nightly at the latched gate, with love
bites of the grill fence, scored
tablets ready to break,
and inscribed with milligrammed warnings.
Tracheal catacombs are hollow trees in
a deathgrasp, but I digress / denigrate:
to sooten the bioluminescence of lungfish,
twins lighting our protoplasm.
The question: levitate / leviathan? What is the
concentric / eccentric Faust / fault
line of a protocontinent, skimming a pangloss
sea? The same crust of exeunt, vacuum gasps
yo-yo-reeling breath, kite-like, above our columns?
Am I mogul / mongrel, sugar-
cane citizen, Calibus tan, rosebud sled?
If chafed from solar winds, if
bothered by fluctuant
paths from house to gate,
what does circumstance reveal of me?
after C. K. Williams
Ice universes of your awl let me into
the train of your thought,
archetypes, pre-loaded motifs of man
after Auschwitz, and our new knowledge of him.
The dress of evening billows in
the blow of blue round your chewed
bone of moon. Your made world. What
shock from calm of entry into
the poet cauldron of stasis, and moving
stone, moss lording the cracks,
droplets clinging to the
tender petal cliffs.
Risk a closer vantage, bluff overlooking the
house with windowed mage
naked of surrounding scape, lone in a plane of
glass, typewriter ribbons fissuring its globe. That
shoe has no need for satyrs of the
dream, in the forge, from
the cup to the cast, the
lost wax of your bronze crouch reveals only you, foil in the
space below. Is it any wonder you survived the
tantrum of passing if you resurrected a mother, lover and hare
not soul only, but flesh almost? In the 3
depths of your hardback trapdoor is an expanding cosmos, a
tree alive with ants and their pirate armada, their
king commanding the tankering of ichor, a King
Owen: seven days fetching your blood, and sprinkling it,
gas ascending the satiated earth.
Last things, death masks have no use for the living. You show
the lie, torture chamber of self,
nail in thalamus, sledge we inflict no more. The
canal skeleton of the verdant dark calls attention to itself, and
the dance of woof woods, and weft winds, darning after
biopsy extracts a loathing from the breast. You are
the island, in cosmic globe where you never die, whence from
dirt the flurry of the song, awakened, of your
swifts: after kindness to yourself, having tried so hard, perhaps an
invisible mending follows.
In the poem “Humanize / Calibanize”, the concept of serial possession was inspired by Fady Joudah’s “Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance (“A fever of thyself think of the earth”)”
The first portions of each line of “Repair” are from, in sequence, each of the 38 poems in C. K. Williams’ collection of same title: Ice, The Train, Archetypes, After Auschwitz, The Dress, The Blow, Bone, Shock, The Poet, Stone, Droplets, Tender, Risk, House, Naked, Glass, Shoe, Dream, The Cup, Lost Wax, Space, Tantrum, Not Soul, Depths, Tree, King, Owen: Seven Days, Gas, Last Things, The Lie, The Nail, Canal, The Dance, Biopsy, The Island, Dirt, Swifts, and Invisible Mending
Tolu Oloruntoba was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and is a somewhat-lapsed physician and itinerant poet. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Bird’s Thumb, The Kalahari Review, and other publications, and his short fiction has appeared in translation in the Dansk PEN Magazine. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.