The way water puddles differently in different cities
how trees hold rain how
buildings carry rain
around flashing and chimneys. How fog settles or wanders —
how dew gems grass or pregnancy tests.
presses down on the heart of the continent.
Pine-needled mud under a wet tissue:
condensation in a plastic bag full of trash
stuffed in the rotted top of a cut-off phone pole.
Guard rail tagged tagged again.
bead the coastline with swinging mirrors that never land on land.
An eroding bank gripped in roots’ mossy fists —
the circumference of a hull a pit
radar radius floating tossed starlit
into the compass, the calipers
centuries of frozen ice down the crystal lattice of the universe —
a picture in a locket’s frame
that loveless location. Mourning doves in twos
at the widow’s perch as if
trees had no roots the ocean no currents as if grain could grow
in prow-cut furrows.
Through fathoms no secrets rise up to meet me.
Barbs of goose down prick through the thread count.
The evening tide pulls swash
over the heads of those who died
undressing weather-women with their eyes.
The minister’s secretary unfolds the paperclip from
the bottom of the drawer — the targeting program
searches the millionth chamber of
the reef's bleached bark for a sweet spot
in the seabed shale. Somewhere past the space debris
and bridal magazines:
the smell of chamomile growing in the gravel
of mice in the grain in
the silo’s froth.
Bubbles in the latex paint expand against the sheetrock.
Offshore princes in corner offices
prance witty clean as scrubbed clams —
clenched as bunting in cold rain. Finger roulette underdeck
in the tanker’s blink.
The different tones of different lights. DVDs in the media cabinet
in the mess room.
My hands smell of mustard
from the sandwich.
The whale’s eye black in inky enmity — the burrowing barnacle
or the Carlotta drawn to the wrong lights:
hull grinning ear to ear to be
nearer things heard from outer space.
Her hair still wet in the center of the ponytail —
the robin’s breast color of the nebula’s little belly the coral pattern
in a Kansas rock-outcrop
menthol butts in the parking lot. Fried peanuts. Aluminum.
Eminent domain. Headstones pulled out by the root. Between
basin and range, derricks in the vineyard
pound the chest of the first victim of time travel —
pockets full of permafrost jiggling like jelly
mammoths thawing soft as plant rot.
Heavy metals at the crash-site:
boutonniere in the corner of the fire circle —
sunshine through fungus-covered branches
a burr stuck to a striped sock with some kind of pattern on it.
The smell of the new roof. The smell of bruised petals
patches of devil’s paintbrush sprayed by the mower.
Weather balloons atmosphere — water towers irrigation systems
Depots near the docks near the tracks lumberyard near the mill
near the old path of the river like a crooked finger.
The construction crew sprays down the demolition site to keep
the dust from drifting.
The chemical plant outside city limits burns bald the banks.
Different tones to different bridges.
Dredges sort particle by particle
through the bladder’s bloody body of water
the human liver the size of a
shoebox for a frog — rain in the leafy gutter
wet wood under the shelter. Ants dry in the core of the log.
Petals curl back under their own weight
curl more under the weight of water.
Juniper trees grow twisted in the Pacific breeze that
separates bark from flesh.
Yellowish foam floats in the bay from soap and
shampoo from outdoor showers.
in the backyards of the cedar-clapped Cape Cods.
Napkins flutter under silverware.
Edgar, matte finish, hands by side right leg slightly forward.
Tall child headless white.
Square bale props
blue skies marble backdrop.
Picnic scene —
sparklers tickle the unlit faces
pinch their fingers.
The moon cuts time
into portions souvenirs — snow globes
a pot of water on the wood-stove;
an orange peel studded with cloves —
the seamless walls of grain elevators
power plant chimneys the legs of the rig —
concrete mix poured ceaseless into
the ceaselessly moving frame. My heart turns like
blown glass in tongs.
Nathaniel Farrell was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. He holds a doctorate in English Literature from Columbia University in New York City. He is the author of Newcomer (Ugly Duckling Presse) — a personae poem narrated by an anonymous soldier and set in an undefined military campaign — and Lost Horizon (UDP), a long poem inspired by the American mall, interstate landscapes and suburban pastorals. He teaches composition at Washington University in St. Louis and hosts a weekly experimental music program on 88.1 KDHX, St. Louis' community-supported, freeform radio station. His collages have been exhibited at Bushel (Delhi, NY), and Some Other Ways — his collaborative poetic project with Jessica Baran on the first month of Trump's presidency — was part of the World Chess Hall of Fame's Imagery of Chess exhibition.