Two Poems

August Kleinzahler

Retard Spoilage

Animalcules heave their tackling,
ladders of polysaccharides,
onto meatmilkshrimp&creamy emulsions,

sticking like putrefactive velcro.
The refrigerator switches on in the darkness,
a murmuring, perfervid sadhu close at hand.

Turbidity, gases, a silky clouding over –
gray slime spreads across hot dog casings,
a sour reechiness transpires below.

However much by day we shore up our defenses,
darling, over time they find their way back
to slowly assail our dwindling larder.

Liquefaction, spoilage and rot –
mephitic flora breed apace,
leaving behind them a ropiness, butyric off-odours.

Ludamilla’s prize-winning kraut goes pink.
Fetor of broken proteins –
the drumstick fluoresces, alight with Pseudomonads.

There has to be a music to it all,
I’m certain, if only one could hear it:
a lilliputian string ensemble’s low humming,

an almost inaudible cicada surge,
earwax hissing in peroxide solution,
sausage frying in a distant room.

Good, patient Leeuwenhoek of Delft,
having ‘partook of hot smoked beef, that was a bit fat,
or ham’, of which he was most fond,

suffered a grave ruction below
and so put to work his celebrated lens
that he might better examine his troubled stool

and found there an animalcule, nay many,
but one especially, in the figure of an eel
that ‘bent its body serpent-wise’,

‘a-moving prettily’, he made thorough note
in a letter to his estimable coequal, Robert Hooke,
and ‘as quick as a pike through water’.

Sleep, my angel, sleep,
though everywhere out there they are among us,
within, as well, wriggling deep,

they prosper into our dark complement, and by us dwell
in perfect equipoise: your inviolate sweetness
amidst that which is vile&writhing&smells.

Noir

The light emission diodes stare,
incandescent crab eyes.
Fog horns trade calls in the night
as if lost, seeking one another out,
sometimes in the key of A,
sounding out there by the cliffs,
sometimes in G or C,
depending on how the fog is blowing,
but always at their loudest right before dawn.

A fine rain falls.
The actors scuttle back to their trailers
after the hours of hitting their spots,
muffed scenes, take after take,
shivering out there under the helium lamps.
Another crap, over-budget homage
to Hammett and John Alton,
Magyar master of the shadow game:
fog, steam and smoke,
bad news behind the slatted blinds,
the half-illumined face
and pistol’s report.

Exhausted, feeling a little debauched
after too much weasel, cop and tough, good time Mabel,
down on her luck,
the canny Chinaman named Wu,
three of them plays cards,
the other two, after a few lines of blow, screw.

The front is blowing in from the south.
You can taste it in the air,
smell it.
The flags on the downtown buildings begin to snap.
It starts out there on the Pacific,
a thousand miles off the China coast,
and comes across on the westerlies.
That’s what it does this time of year.
I’ve been out here a long time.
Every year.
You can set your clock by it.