Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Solutions for the End of the World 6

This time, section 6 of the seven-part poem,
Solutions for the End of the World.

Section 1 can be found here.
Section 2 can be found here.
Section 3 can be found here.
Section 4 can be found here.
Section 5 can be found here.


This is my favorite section. It’s a long one. 

I was writing what I thought was the last section of the poem and then, standing in the darkness under the stars, the feathered eel began to whisper into my ear, took me on a strange tour around the globe.

And I wrote it down... 

6.    Silence, Begging for Silence, But…

          Maria has returned to earth.

          Goya flapped into the sky.

                                                  Wind batters the screens.

           Tree-damaging pests pose ‘devastating’ threat to 40% of US forests.

                                   I wake from a recurring nightmare, body flushed with fear:

                                                                                          a wall of ice

                stretched hundreds or thousands of miles in both directions,

          on a vast plain of sand, coarse grass.

                                          I am supposed to meet someone out there…


          Insoluble. Outside:                        

                                 figures, vague shadows. Cassiopeia, close. Black

                            hollyhocks move towards me. Dark pinyons pull away.

          As many as 30 to 50 percent of the planet's species may be extinct by 2050…

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a short-horned lizard, sharp-scaled, with inter-

connected shades of brown around a sleepy eye that opens

wide to take me in, to survey canyons below the White Rim,

absorb the Green River, while it clings to sandstone, red as

human blood dried for centuries in the sun…and the rise and

fall of its ribcage is the breath of the stone beside it, is the

breath of the tides in Baja, further south. This is your

descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is an old man on the verge of death, or on the

verge of crying for the first time since childhood, crouching

against the back wall of a restaurant, smoking, downtown

Des Moines; a wall that reminds him of his grandmother’s

hands against his back – how she touched him, prodded

him, protected him. Where is she now? Two deserts away,

many deaths away, a place where a darkling beetle crosses

and re-crosses an empty highway that may or may not lead

to Heaven. This is your descendent…This is your ancestor…” 

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a spider-legged columbine, yellow pistil inside

pale blue petals, that pulls the sphinx moth away from its

affair with the moon, tongue unfurling down the long spur.

They were once the same creature, split apart by the moon’s

pull. Now insect and flower return to their origin, inside each

other, for a second, tangled meat, building spires of cumulo-

nimbus cloud – mist on mist, ghost of water rolling onto the

ghost of water, climbing back towards the crescent moon –

symbiosis of illusion and reality. Pollen-tongue, wing-sepal,

moon-mouth, nectar-prey. This is your descendent…This is

your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a white rhinoceros lying on its side, Ol Pejeta, Kenya,

last breath released, and there is a man who crouches next

to the rhino, witness to the last breath, heart-broken, his hand

on the ground, feeling what is there, feeling what is no longer

there. Sorrow moves in a slow circle around him, and the ghost

of his loneliness slips into the heart of a woman waiting for a bus

on Boulevard de Strasbourg, Toulouse, the morning of her first

day of work in five years. She stretches out on the pavement,

theater for passing cars, and the earth beneath opens, grateful,

takes her heart into its mouth. This is your descendent…This

is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“A grey whale scrapes the ocean floor, ploughs through mud,

filters amphipods through baleen with a two-ton tongue, filters

the minds of seven children standing on the sand, Lincoln City,

Oregon. Silt clouds catch the light and the crystal lattice interprets

the sun – words from the first earth: silver from the rim of a click

beetle’s faux-eyes, copper from the hypnotic stare of a cat-faced

spider’s eyes as it wraps a grasshopper, taking its time – the love

embrace of predator and prey. The whale blows a cloud of mist

and the children reach into the sky. Drops land on waves, cupolas

driven into black water, the place where the water exhales an

osprey, two ospreys. A feather falls and the children rush forward,

toward the water, toward the feather. This is your descendent…

This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“A black-backed gull just landed near a boy who has just tossed

a beer bottle against a wall, Hamburg, Germany. His head is

drenched with cortisol: mornings are sinister, afternoons are

sinister, night is sinister. He sees things at the corner of his eye:

figures, trolls, headless mammoths, giant bumblebees from his

dead aunt’s garden, sonicating pollen off a flower, onto the bee’s

hair. Bee-noise shifts matter across space! He laughs, says to

the bird: ‘There is blood on your beak. Is it mine?’ This is your

descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There are precise mountain shadows on the moon, cat paws

across dust, imprints of what’s been lost, what can’t be returned;

a child left behind in an abandoned train station, unable to move,

stuck there for fifty years wondering why, why won’t they come

back for me? And the wondering is the wind that moves through

the grass grown through the cracks in concrete. This is your

descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a sound, the sound of the sun, how it mimics a chorus

of white-and-black striped bees, of wings that no one can see

for speed; of wind that flows liquid from a squadron of flying

squid, searching for the source of the sun. And there is a woman

in a basket boat, looking down into the sun on water, off the coast

near Lagi Village, Bin Thuan Province, who can hear the spin at

the center of the sun’s reflection, how it desires to hide in skin,

in pine needles, how it speaks through the antennae of long-horned

beetles hiding in the dark. This is your descendent…This is your


                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a reddish-black hollyhock, an underworld flower, on

4th Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico, rooted between rabbit bone

and moon-dust; yellow pollen cascades down the petal, burns

like the center of Andromeda, burns the human heart almost

black, the heart that is a house perpetually on fire. As the black

gristle turns to ash, it drifts into the night sky, harvested by sand

wasps, who collect the particles to feed their young. This is your

descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a girl standing in front of her sister’s house, staring into

the eyes of a devil’s flower praying mantis, outskirts of Dar Es

Salaam, Tanzania. She reaches out and the mantis displays: red,

blue, black, and purple patterns, trying to distract. She can feel

the insect taking her in, all of her. She hears the voice inside the

sound of passing cars, the voice beneath the talk through open

windows, the voice of wind against wind. How can she hear wind

against wind? She is suddenly strange to herself – and so discovers

herself for the first time. This is your descendent…This is your


                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“And there is a woman, painting in her studio on Chihuahua Street,

Mexico City. She ushers three Egyptian dog-sphinxes into the world,

the ones who guard a temple somewhere between here and a star she

named Syrious; the dog-sphinxes who keep vigil over a black-masked

dancer that dances something instead of nothing into the world. The

realm of earth and death rises through the artist’s legs, the realm of sky

and solitude descends through the crown of her skull, merge in her heart,

give birth to Andromeda – blue spiral, orange curves around darkness,

and white light, light that feeds a black hole, the dark-center that sets

all the galaxy’s stars into their spin. She puts brush to canvas, a cat in

her lap, a cat on a nearby chair. The ghost of a cat floats above her,

the ghost of a mammoth floats behind her, the ghost of a coelacanth

looks in the window, and the ghost of the first kingfisher feather falls

through the skylight – and she thinks: “Oh look, another strange form

has entered the world.” This is your descendent…this is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There are vicious glass-shard-inspired tentacles of a Portuguese

Man O’ War shredding the face, neck and shoulders of a boy

swimming in the Thai Gulf, South China Sea; tentacles that want to

be close, to find another/themselves in the void; tentacles that leave

him with a message of fire, of fire and skin, of salt and fire and skin,

of salt and fire and skin and the future. And he opens his half-blind

eyes on the stretcher as the nurse dabs his wounds, tells her the exact

moment when she will die because he now knows the exact moment

he will die. This is your descendent…this is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a woman wandering her childhood neighborhood in the

rain, Jacksonville, Florida, knocking on each door in succession,

leaving before anyone answers. Soaked clothes cling to her skin,

her nose runs, her head and hands shake from exposure. She feels 

eyes on her back, eyes from behind glass, in the dark. And there

are also the eyes of the raindrops reflecting the grey sky; and

there are also the eyes of the crows folded into a live oak tree

above her, slow-blinking the day into and out of existence. This

is your descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a corpse-burner, breaking a skull with a bamboo stick,

scarf wrapped around his face head against pyre flames, Manikarnika

Ghat, Varanasi. No one will touch him, this death-tender, smoke-faced,

and so he has rejected touch. He knows the terrible poem the tourists

refuse to hear; grease, blood, smell of shit. And there is an Angler Fish,

ball organ dangling near its mouth, alight, drawing in the curious, all

the dreams that have sifted down to the bottom, transmitting the death

poem. And there is a bank teller in Santiago, Chile, who wakes to the

crack of the skull, smell of burning flesh. She touches her cheek, feels

the bone beneath, feels the trilobite fossil embedded in the bone. This

is your descendent…This is your ancestor…”

                    And the Eel whispers into my ear:

“There is a woman holding a juniper torch, resin-lit, scanning cave-

shadows, waiting for the words in the stone to speak; waiting for the

animals that speak to her constantly outside the cave to reveal them-

selves, to name themselves: a horse face, the back of a cave hyena,

a rhino lying on its side, all speaking through flickering shadows.

She smears black, red ochre, yellow ochre and white, one into another,

follows the curves, the seams, and so begins the world. Do you see?

Imagination is a solid rock wall – how the dream and the fingers and

the stone and the hyena’s eyes and the lizard heart are intertwined,

inseparable. Do you see? The vision is a voice, brought to life by

torch shadow, bound to the flame, bound to her. Do you see? Rock

as dream incarnate, beginning the world, ending the world. This is

your descendant…This is your ancestor…”


Chauvet Cave

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