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A History of Commerce

& beyond our grasp this brightness & shit,
black sacks tossed off the fantail as shores disappear, this

is how it is done, the beginnings of profit & loss: salmon roe, silk, lapis & cinnabar, tusk ivory, scalps & frankincense carried

across passages & roads. In New Bedford the whaler’s daughter waits, gulls pick at clover wrack as kelp meadows part, beard of hot pink,

polymers & rhino horn trailing from Bukhara to Coos Bay,
down the Oxus, up the Columbia to offload garbage at Arlington.

Are my obscure sins disposable too, like a penitent bathing
in the ash & holy shit of Ganges, slaves ships once on the phosphate sheen of river Niger,

anointed in Alaska crude, with boxcars banging in narco Culiacan? On
the backs of caravels, dhows, coal barges & tilting junks Korans, mud-faced

idols, pages of psalter, the scrapings of ham & eggs fall in the dust & wake. Oceanos gyres the sachets, lollipop & glow sticks, lances made at Muza,

Sarin & also daggers. From the Komodo Islands dragon’s blood,
from Rotterdam salt cod, Yorkshire cream, six-pack mandalas of Coca-Cola

burning scrolls of papyrus off Alexandria, beside the discarded the baby carseat, feather meal piled high, beaver pelts & black muscle, pyres along the shore.

Merchants wax & weep over the mark-up possibilities of shrouds & guano.
Brasses, barbs, tomol planks & box boats full of honey from the reed called sacchari,

micro plastics rain like confetti. In the dust of the semi’s wake, asses tied head to tail for miles, waiting, nightingale songs float in the desert air.

On a lullaby tide, among the plastic middens,

a brown girl picks cellophane, like amber from beach mud.

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Randy White is the author of Blood Transparencies and Motherlode/La Veta Madre. He won the Bazzanella Literary Award for both poetry and short fiction and his work has appeared in the Notre Dame Review, Range of Light Anthology, From These Hills: Stories and Poems of The American West, Sulfur, Sierra Journal, Poetry Now, News From Native California and other magazines. Currently he is the Managing Editor of the Blue Oak Press.