Across the Bantu Homeland
The gas flares from an oil rig begin to settle the Bantu homeland.
Old money decorates the thrones and blesses the fertile plains.
The wide river opened eyes where the kiosks sold grilled meats.
At the checkpoints the traders' glances set off alarms in the shadows.
The peasants collected candles for their journey into the unknown
led by a visionary in flip-flops who squabbled with the darkening jungle.
The huts of leaves turned to grass and a linguist told a tale of Robert Frost
in the Congo sharing a dugout canoe with two barefoot farmers
eating stalks of sugarcane that rumbled in the kingdom of trees.
Suddenly, the women clapped and sang about babies falling into okapi holes.
A kalimba conspired with cruel words tapped on an aluminum pot.
The story and the cure were walking away into the hotel garden,
shrieking with birdlife, frightening the dogs, running the village projects.
The store signs spoke of a curse: oil is the devil's excrement.
The Human Footprint during the harmattan is mesmerized by dunes.
Old hoof trails pass by rock piles and lead to the ancient graves.
The pipeline is managed with guns fallen from heaven like burnt manna.
Coup plots, both real and rumored, circulate among the boatmen.
The roadside vendors sell their Gala beer and gasoline in glass flagons.
A new bridge leads to a million landscapes where the handshakes grow courage.
The Natural Scars
The virgin forests of the Tetons are designed with natural scars.
They develop from acres of elk and a million years of glaciers.
The untended graves of the mountain men rest near the lonely dirt road
where the chirr of a squirrel and the croak of a raven fill up the willows.
Greetings are exchanged; one of the skeletons that walked upright
had a bit of hard luck at a lake margin in Hominid Valley.
A femur, a fossil turtle, a baboon cranium arise out of the gravel hills.
The sandstone badlands return the severed tusks from a vanished age.
The mandible fragments, the metacarpal debris—how much does
the thumb rotate? The cadets master tying fancy knots.
They grasp a line, steel-taut, cruel to grip. They holystone the decks.
The tripe soup promises to bring wind while becalmed in the doldrums.
Four bells ring. It's 2 AM. Hellfire!—the fog will postpone the parade.
Girls from the neighborhood will bring chocolate cakes and thistles.
The carnivorous plants will nab a free meal in their florid jaws,
and not even Proteus come tumbling out of rocks and dusty shrubs
can escape their digestive fluids, their stampede, their capricious storms.
Born tail first, they disappear into windrows and maelstrom like fossilized pollen.
The master plan slides from the flank of Sheep Mountain and dams
the river and its thinking while in the basins it continues its sculpting.
The Grass Under the Donkey
A red-hot hope no longer lives in Hebrew words the genie uses in anger
and tears from cigarette smoke stream down the statue in the fantasy kitchen
the physical world inherits an array of sage and cherry and kiss of fennel
as the stars hiss through the nightscape amid the hours of despair
the recipes bold with their chemical vanilla press into the fields of cinnamon
kings and forefathers do not wait for spring to pronounce their great flavors
together they ride a gray horse to the edge of imaginary empire and Casa Bonita
the beast’s riders attack the black vacancy with their breaths
the mother grain is reborn as the old magic in the layers of wafer
a secret swelling of the gut leads to miracle sex among the sponge cakes
then The Empathy Symphony dissolves the forest’s feelings for the pines
linden branches repeat the clicking and clopping of the animal’s hooves
the hinterlands of the Rhine are called back to Paris to astonish the age
those floppy-eared optimists stop to regard the pendulum of genetics
special butterflies in the supermarket aisles arrive to deliver a firm Amen
to the spines and stonework whose design is a theoretical engine
however, on African shores the godly dunes slowly perfect their Leviathans
ordained the same way the landscape is devoted to its own ink and gloom
the sand scribbles and shifts to the past while the meadow reminds one of tomorrow
the grass under the donkey is still in progress and grows no reference