Explosion and the Decline of Periodic Style
From the Latin: explosio,
which is not to detonate
but to frighten away
by clapping, from explodere
as in clapping away birds.
To drive away birds.
There are no birds in Aleppo,
trees blasted to ruined timber,
buildings returned to sand and shard
by clapping louder than dreams
of noise, beginning without knowing
more than 2,000 years since Cicero.
Chinese black powder, invented
by Taoists, Immortalists. Less long
than Greek Fire but more immediate.
A disease not invented by disease.
More one clap than leprosy
but of similar result: the canker—
birdless suburbs, streets absent trees.
Runners from the trailhead to the path and shore
of a prehistoric salt sea, nod or do not nod hello
as they come and come to go and go.
This indecision as to what is so
surrenders to the confusion of not knowing
a better way to be confused. We are rowing
in the air where once great fishes were soaring
over deserts yet to be, while I am pouring
words into my phone, hoping text from speech
will make sentences knowable enough to speak.
Athleticism today is dumb, but of sufficient speed.
I nod and move along the trail to an ill-conceived
and ruined hotel, charred timbers rotted to loam,
the chimney scattered—returned to field stone—
the iron boiler rusted through, useless, its own
testament, unable to remember come from go.
When Coyote made the First People
from the blood of a monster
whose name is not known,
the only word Coyote said
when done was, “Enough.”
And it was.
Nothing more is remembered
by the songs The People remember
or by the people who came after,
white as a tooth with no blood in it
and more terrible than original blood.
I’ve seen the pictures, so I know:
No one goes without hesitation;
at the end, everybody wonders,
I’ve lost the gift for metaphor,
rummage among words as though
they were wrenches, the hard utility
of a job requiring the right tool,
and saw myself caught on video
by the newly installed security’s watching
an old man in old clothes, hunchingly.
(I’ve seen the pictures, so I know.)
No one comes without reservation
to this place so at the end of else.
Everyone wonders whether they have
packed the right clothes (does it snow?)
whether they were the right resolutions
and whether they were right to say so.
Everyone fears being caught on video,
the insecurity of not wanting to know:
There is no secure system.
At the end, everyone wonders
whether the rules were metaphor,
whether there were correct tools,
whether anyone was right to say so.
I’ve seen the pictures. I know.
Clifton H. Jolley has published poems and essays in the New York Times, Western Folklore Quarterly, Utah Historical Quarterly, Mountainwest, Dialogue, Sunstone, Deseret News, Ensign, Salt Lake Tribune, and Huffington Post. His documentaries have been nominated for regional Emmys. His essays have been awarded by the Associated Press and are collected in the book Children’s Voices.