How great my grief, my joys how few,
                                                                            Since first it was my fate to know thee?
                                                                                                     --Thomas Hardy


Waves beneath waves. The sun stumbles.
A map of what the earth forgot. A season
lost its track. The clouds singe and tumble
beneath the sun—its waves? Waves tumble
all the ships ancestors sailed. Full-stubble,
the men hug me and drop, a dozen lesions
these waves bequeath. Son! Waves, stumbles,
forgets the earth, what a map: this season!



So great my grief? O Hardy, you should’ve had Facebook,
a galaxy of performative acts. We choose the wished joys
we project into space, or desperations others can look
and comment—give you grief or share their grief. Book
a seat to the lonesome’s fast-finger pleas—worms on hooks
we—the also lonesome—lodge into our cheeks—we’re toys
to our despondent cores. Jaundiced meteors, molted faces,
forces greater than performance—we can’t choose joy.



Held a spoon beneath her utter, farmhouse burning
the first and last time, and squeezed. My town lapsed
into accusations, torches prodding. Red, flaring ferns
sucked me beneath the farmhouse. Utterly burning,
the cow charred down to my mother. Stomach turn
as my hand, up from the ground, groped her breast—
held beneath her house by her house. By noon, I burn
my last cells down. No one to please, one last lapse.



This subject mistakes the project. Garbage bags
split and burst maggots from their holes. A bridge
arches over the putrid alley, the white boy gags—
the subject of the project—a mistake. Bags
beneath his mother’s double-shifted eyes, he lags
behind her legs, shoots up when a 9 mm erodes
another subject in the project. Mistakes and garbage
fall down a hole. Maggots split or burst his bridge.



A toddler is a caged lion, a clasped hand of dung—
like to syringe and plunge her to sleep— like a rat
on other days, her cretinous insistence, a swung
hand clasping a lion. Cage the toddler, her dunged
diaper never breaks down—those brilliant lungs,
shut off their fucking air. Silence: congratulations
she unclasps your hand, lies uncaged—last dung
expunged—how great her sleep, how big the rats.



Is joy a state or performance?—what’s performed?—do I choose
which meteor molted, which face jaundiced?—a core despondence
opposes the term—thus composes it—if every animal were loose,
would joy be in the hunt?—what is prey?—can predators choose
two lame ducks, a turkey in the road, nothing?—can they respond
beyond their hunger?—what animals exceed their need? which sense,
if any, composes ornament?—is this joy: snails can no more choose
their homes than we, humans, faces—our cores are not response.



Forget the equation. We are they—broke-down breaths—
no blather, no speech—a microbe’s job is no mystery
and its work ends too—the eclipsed, bald sun explodes—
an equation we—and they—forget. The homicidal breath
might be a gallon of space dust. Our two-block towns,
their little stores—our currency, our trinkets—memory—
an I or We—consumed in fire. The equations of breath
so much blather—give me your soul—microbe, mystery.



When death wants a treat it eats a child over onions
and the sun but the sun’s stuck, light can’t breathe,
do you know our fossils are hard pillows, that ovens
over there eat children that means death’s onions
won’t fit on its plate, that means the tumor’s grown
inside my eye like candy, will the respirator help me
in heaven—what a treat—then I wake up, onion-ed
sun—but that’s the light I see when I can’t breathe