Fall 2017

Volume 12, Issue 2



Mormon Boys Dancing to the Drummer
in Prospect Park


"When they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites,
that they separated themselves and departed one from another"
Book of Mormon (Alma 17:13)     

"When I get mad I put it down on a pad—
            give ya something that ya never had"
Chuck D


on mission every body
hear the drum and get wicked

if you believe that
celestial bodies gain and gain orbit
you might twist the oblique tendons of your core
along the open beat
as if it were a world
in cyclical

you will believe this
the drummer with the most righteous chops
down the sacred grooves cast into the pocket
her flaming hammer strokes
rings of light
into loam

making record in the language of her father
displaced she moves you cry out
this maker will respond
outright things
in snarescape

in stress of tom heads to the Eastern Park-
way my brethren to the East
note the Norway maple grows
in Brooklyn touching
tabouring on

to be sure idol worries matter
you make something divine the medium
in constant pulse in crease
immediately your base
comes unfastened

you must give it up
or turn it loose
outside time’s wrenching roots
and boughs a sacred tree
grows ever resonating as we all play
after sounding motions soon we grow
fixed on the iron rods
that first drew out the cycling groove
even when the neophyte bands of wood cry out
for softer mallets

if you believe that
a tree of life will grow
an idol of necessity
even if the blessed No One hears the fall
and comes undone

you will believe this
matter will turn and tumble into holy whir
exceeding all the whiteness of phantom glory
you hear the drum you may as well
get wicked dancing in your developing world




The New Madrid Fault


No land's end. Not hardly the gravelly
vapor of glacier-dragged natural borders,
no standing and staring steam-eyed
at the agnostic sea, wondering
if that sand-pawing rolling leveler might
send toppling across the waterline, headfirst
and angry onto the beach, one of creation's
unknown, unanswerable monsters,
or if the monster at last is a flatlined
horizon falsely rouged and stuffed—
the sky's criminal undertaking: oceanic
                                                the landlocked
have no privilege of being
taken under by coastal melodramas—tides,
plate tectonics, sisyphian
shape-shifting, the crawl of continents
wrinkling, buckling one against another.

But we have stood on edges of a kind,

and we have learned lessons lugging
ourselves atop this protean soil
in a double-breasted nation: Missouri:
a slave state ever pledged to a civil union
ever pledged to the feasible eradication
of slave states, where legislative compromises
protecting peculiar sacred institutions break,
sorrowfully, predictably, where solid fugitives
queer and dark cannot exist because
there is no homeland unquaked, neither
a river that will not, under collusions
of certain seismic lunacies, run
against itself, insinuating with genesis
immediacy new lakes, islands, cotton fields,
family dwellings
—Remember this, fringe Americans—
            that we have learned lessons also

from the flam of hail on cars,
the quiet order of floodplains, the storm
sirens whining entirely into boiling green
skies, the fool’s gold buried
under exit ramp real estate, the jet exhaust
smeared like whiteout above and beyond
farms that we know look empty
to pilots and conference attendees,
network news, K-12 curricula,
zoning laws.

            The fiction of the edges occurs to us—
            a littoral transcription
sitting fidgety on our place.
So we have choices.

Some occupy pews and restaurant booths
to wait for the high resolution in the bill,
munching out of habit the complimentary
communal bread as servers back platter-handed
through swinging double doors.  Some keep
notebooks, where the paradoxes paged
and clasped work themselves out
as theology, poetry, grocery lists,
vaccination records.  Some keep gardens.
Some hang seaside images (Leviathan
drawn and hooked) on hallway plaster,
foggy in the ribbed clouds
of room shufflers' peripheral vision,
sleepers in corridors descending deep
into the subdivision night chambers
of modular interior castles,
no edges, no fringes,
no ends in sight—even our own.


If you would like to read more from Ryan Harper,
click here for his collection My Beloved Had a Vinyard,
winner of Prize Americana



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