Dustlands

by Nate Maxson

After Franz Wright

1

Is this where the dream journal starts or where it ends?

The backdoor of a trailer flapping and banging in the wind, an abandoned view of yellow fields spewed with shelled cars and plastic bottles full of what I hope is just dirty rain

In a word: childhood

Now distanced from all that, the shadow-theatrics of a smaller city: the memory of everything escaping you like a circulating note from a singing-bowl

How to anecdotally clarify this, ah:

            I once heard a rumor that the astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster had ejected from their burning machine before it hit the ocean, shot into thin air and then
*disappeared*

Such tall tales sustain us in a fuel of bloodlust and optimism

Even when they’re not true (oh what a disrespect to those still landlocked and destitute with the wrong kind of fever, yes yes I know and shame on me for using my telescope to watch them like that)

But it’s soothing to consider, like a creation story: the oasis somewhere out in the dustlands

I was expected to disown this place but I never shook the soil from my clothing: I kept a few souvenirs from the dustlands

Where the orange lilies are growing out of settled crash-debris and pulped teenage blueprint diaries for building the next great escape

Next time, always next time: we’ll capture their floating chalkmark ghosts the moment before they break

 

2

This is what flashes before your eyes

This is (a pre-organized way of making sense of what you saw)

The sky rising up to the forest

The speed of silver

We fall back on scriptural aphorisms, clichés and lullabys to describe

This (baby’s gone a-gaunting)

What limit lies before your push

A black hole

A highway?

All of the machinery discarded and ingested

In naked evaporations

This is flashing before your eyes

 

3

What prayer invisibles the dustlands?

Faux muttered, Cassandric Latin: dustlands infinitum

Electronic pulse moving in imitation of wind, a consciousness to the motion

Believe me

Where this is wind/ smoke/ a quavering ohm

The dustlands spread over like a saline solution

If death is the event horizon then maybe we’ll never reach it, but I’m an optimist

I believe in water, in the navigation of its potential

How, even inside their thirst, sailors can track their movement by the stars

By the warming horizon/ the old men put on sunglasses to hide their guttural shame

The noir wall trembled,

Rocketing purgatory towards white noise

And the word was the sky

We looked up and forgot how to read

 

4

One could pronounce the place like a piece of meat being chewed: dustlands, dusklands, dushk-lands: shh

Is it a tragedy or mercy?

This vanishing-

The indifference between a flight and a fall

Well that depends on how fast you’re moving

And whether the fact that we could oblate the language

Means we should

Erase this

While bearded men with eyes so big they appear permanently blackened

Are still weeping loudly into fires

Their rivers ceased into drought

Like dictionary pages murmuring soft breakages in the landfill

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. He is the author of several collections of poetry and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Photo credit: Kyrill Poole via Flickr, All Creative Commons Image is of dust motes floating in sunlight against a dark background

 

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