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Clade Song 4

Red Clay Province

for and inspired by Uche Nduka

I've seen the wandering rains
the bare feet
of your mind.

Uche Nduka

and here we are caught in the sacred
whirling primordial streaming
at the second beginning of everything

Aime Cesaire (translated by Clayton Eshleman)
Sun on wall estranged from lawn
            Whose ivy curls towards the radiant
Tremble of leaves above houses
            Ranch-style and intermittent
Along the two-lane longitudinal with churches.
            Torches of red birds make a wish
Before the stark splash of hue rifles
            From green to bright-kist sky.
You have the intent mind, the never
            Content mind—surfer and miner
Of layers—no small battle occurs
            On floorboards or above lattice-work.
No small battle in the dirt under fingernails,
            Parasite there waiting to find
Its livelihood in the lining of your winding
            Intestines. A dog is thirty thousand
Miles above the Pacific Ocean—we shipped her
            To a sister in Hawaii—crated in the cargo belly.
No dog should ever be so far from where
            She first shit in the turf of the first
Yard. No small battle as the boy lurches
            Up the lawn's bank spraying fresh
Cut grass and dogshit about the radius
            Of that steel blade's stellar capacity,
And one ant crawls across the formica
            This morning before killed an inch
From the sugar-tin. Water-colored-whorl of day,
            You always spray through a phantasm
Of soft stained sunglasses or shattered
            Prisms in the puddle suddenly raged
With rain. A rope hangs above an inlet of lake
            Where someone flung out and died
Of draught, the oldest rocks there now new
            With blood—some crappie drink the life
Of the vacation and become somewhat human
            Downstream. The vacation dad
Gets his wheelchair eventually and rides            
            Up to the site where he lost his spine.
No small battles anywhere ever—no kiss
            Without the loss—no lost civilization
Ever existed without a complex set of kisses.
             Paraplegic western world, you starve
Your wheels of oil until they are frying foods
            Or fueling tanks and drones and missiles.
I have confused America with a place to get
            An awesome double-cheeseburger.
America is a good place to get an awesome double
            Religion of race and class struggle.
I love how white Jesus smokes CIA weed,
            But that's no comparison to how
I crossed the border with my dank and hamstrung
            A sheriff. I have been trying to live long enough
To make it back to this poem's back porch
            Where the silverblue dark indigo salamander
Runs across my stoop like someone pulling
            Plastic-wrap from the day with glitter
Upon its speed. Fat mythical catfish scrolls across
            The freshwater flats towards the sewers
Of the southern city and its new tech-mecca
            Where murders pepper the periodicals
And even the bankrobbers don't bother with disguises,
            Caught on security cameras with their brows
Furrowed as the plowed fields between here
            And Alabama soil. This red clay made
From falling iron from the sky—copper
            Too with its soft lustre and fool's gold
Formica in the creeks dusting the fishes' scales
            With further glitter and gore of scintillation.
The tongues of weed-eaters spinning to make
            The gears of the courthouse clocks grind.
It is all so gorged-upon here that you can't stop
            Being increasingly hungry for it—heartbreaking,
Really. I think God once played a Dobro
            Not knowing this universe would spill
Such dangerous flowers and passive sharks.
            If God didn't, maybe a god did or gods.
Just sit under a bridge on a bank and let the water
            And the traffic mix their sonic together;
There's something to that music—inhuman, un-natural
            But synchronous. I never asked for this fig
To be so precious in my mind, but I will not eat it yet,
            Not until it is ripe. My lobes float
In protective brine—their electrical storms make poems,
            And those neurons, those gladiators
Fight in their concept-liseums until the circadian
            Ceasars succumb—so I know my limits—always did,
Just never cared about their canyon's lips.
            Most teen girls are mermaids, and the boys are skaters.
You live in cul de sacs in hovering cities;
            I'll remind you again of the creek, and again, and again.
When I go to work, I willingly walk into a net;
            I try not to move too much to get less tangled.
Uche, you are right—a story burns—it always will.
            I like that—cinders of elements of epics of fables;
They make the creeks spill into our lives, don't they?
            On that one day, every kite ever flown floated
Down from the sky with its tangled dreadlock yarns
            And tried to find hands to remember wind.
What a flock bereft of innocence, what aero-deference.
            You put the toothache under your pillow
And found a fistful of molars next morning—it happens.
            Eddies of blood lick the chambers of my castle;
They want to make continents in that muscle.
            They want to be fed on by inhabitants—drums
Better than the people that play them—their skins
            Useful forever—their hearts ready always.
A piano in an old or new house waiting
            For fingers old or new to release
A striking chord up stairwells and chimneys.
            Out across the smoldering heather
Of Georgia root and weed towards the creek,
            There is no knife that can save you
As moonlight on trickle-water can—no tongue better.
            This pure water freezing from a tin cup—
your hand becomes wet newspaper and creosote
            When I reach out to you, but when I say
I love you, your hand leaves incredible maps
            Under my head like arcane pillows
No one can weave or unweave. Dusk or dawn,
            You stand in doorways that are jaws
Of the most terrible chthonic insatiable beasts.
            At the impetus of the universe, there must
Have been a stampede of scared moons
            Rampaging towards planets that did not yet exist.
I am like that, but reverent—I push everyone away
            Until I am a sailboat with a gilt moon upon it,
Sailing the myths, the bloodveins, the esophagi.
            We are only awakened by coffin or condom;
I need both for my incredible afterlife. The dogs,
            In their humane shelters, are they barking
Tonight or not? There is a tattered toothbrush
            At an abandoned asylum whose DNA could be
A kiter or flyer of human hearts higher.
            No matter—task at hand—best task there is.
I assure you that the basilisk and chimera
            Are myths which can’t publish themselves.
Myths need men to kill forests.
I sometimes wonder why I even have fingers;
Then, I see my arms dissolve, my shoulders
Float in front of me, not like fantasy, not like theory.
Then my ribcage arranges itself as my new
Bookcase and cupboard and my cutlery and tomes
Fly desperately into it—then my crotch
Finds a swamp and my legs a cornfield and my feet
Become Sakrete awaiting a weekend project.
It is no unhappy thing, but the swell is still
Flowing like whiskey or epithets or prayers.
It might never be able to stop—even in the event
Of Nibiru, but by experimental physics it keeps
Churning—it's an old cauldron—one we are voraciously stirring,
A rising so vital that the sun seems humble.
Quark. Genome. Philosopher’s Stone. The first human
Word was a surprised laugh.

Joe Milford Joseph Victor Milford was born in Alabama by the banks of the Chatahoochee River; after growing up in the south, he attended The University of West Georgia where he studied English and Philosophy. He then was accepted at The Iowa Writers' Workshop where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. His first collection of poetry, Cracked Altimeter, was published by BlazeVox Press in 2010. He is currently an English Professor for eCore and is working on his Doctorate in Education while also hosting The Joe Milford Poetry Show, on blogtalk radio, several times a month.