Three Poems

August Kleinzahler

West

An apocalyptic crack spreads like thunder
over sintered gorges and alkali flats.
The junco is knocked sideways then drops
as if shot onto a granite bed, turning
slowly mahogany there – wild peony.
Somewhere in the bleached sky and cirrus a Phantom
is at play, singeing cattle, lifting shingles
off farmhouse roofs. An enormous ball
of phosphorus bounds across the Carson Sink.

Christ, it was hot out there on Jackass Flats
after that big wave of wire, sagebrush
and rattlesnakes broke over us.

The Paiute flint auger fairly hummed
with chromium when they pulled it out of Stillwater Marsh.
You could listen to it like a conch shell,
an impossibly busy, serial music
that compounds and accelerates, on and on.

Watching Young Couples with an Old Girlfriend on Sunday Morning

How mild these young men seem to me now
with their baggy shorts and clouds of musk,
as if younger brothers of the women they escort
in tight black leather, bangs and tattoos,
cute little toughies, so Louise Brooks annealed

in MTV, headed off for huevos rancheros
and the Sunday Times at some chic, crowded dive.
I don’t recall it at all this way, do you?
How sweetly complected and confident they look,
their faces unclouded by the rages

and abandoned, tearful couplings of the night before,
the drunkenness, beast savour and remorse.
Or do I recoil from their youthfulness and health?
Or, not recoil, just fail to see ourselves.
And yet, this tenderness between us that remains

was mortared first with something dark, something feral,
we still refuse, we still refuse to name.

Green Sees Things in Waves

Green first thing each day sees waves –
the chair, armoire, overhead fixtures, you name it,
waves – which, you might say, things really are,
but Green just lies there awhile breathing
long slow breaths, in and out, through his mouth
like he was maybe seasick, until in an hour or so
the waves simmer down and then the trails and colours
off of things, that all quiets down as well and Green
starts to think of washing up, breakfast even
with everything still moving around, colours, trails
and sounds, from the street and plumbing next door,
vibrating – of course you might say that’s what
sound really is, after all, vibrations – but Green
he’s not thinking physics at this stage, nuh-uh,
our boy’s only trying to get himself out of bed,
get a grip, but sometimes, and this is the kicker,
another party, shall we say, is in the room
with Green, and Green knows this other party
and they do not get along, which understates it
quite a bit, quite a bit, and Green knows
that this other cat is an hallucination, right,
but these two have a routine that goes way back
and Green starts hollering, throwing stuff
until he’s all shook up, whole day gone to hell,
bummer ...
               Anyhow, the docs are having a look,
see if they can’t dream up a cocktail,
but seems our boy ate quite a pile of acid one time,
clinical, wow, enough juice for half a block –
go go go, little Greenie – blew the wiring out
from behind his headlights and now, no matter what,
can’t find the knob to turn off the show.