John Cross: Chet Baker’s Teeth and The Singing at Dusk

John Cross and his captive audience

THERMOS is delighted to present new work by John Cross. Cross grew up in Maumee, Ohio, where his father would sometimes read to him, from history books, on the back porch under a mulberry tree, in the slow hum of Ohio summers.  His chapbook, staring at the animal, won the Snowbound Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press.  He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, and he teaches at Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, and moonlights as a carny in his dreams.

Chet Baker’s Teeth

Because lightning follows air currents, when we were children we lay exposed in the wasps’ mud and dizzying depths of birds and in the moment our tears were shed when many cousins offered scripture upon the celebrities’ deaths and no one’s valentine was funny oxy-acetylene-torched across this abandoned city’s facades we felt true; like siblings, indigenous and spooky, we felt cool and listened for footsteps immeasurably happy as we felt further and further away whispering water under awnings counting what’s been up in the sky a very long time until the steps died away before coming out to play in the only evidence, a mingled grief…

… we got lost in the mirror neurons: a closer walk with thee is how a good is built into us is sometimes sung like Mozart loved his starling, echoed melody’s vast expanse of salvage from the old neighborhood

While  (n(p,q) = -[pq* + (pq*)*]/2) Minkowski space springs from the soil, and you, beakless, grave out your intonations in many voices, (flightless bird in the face of the light (the folds of a shirt the sun gathering itself up is for the night)) fledgling herons clacking in the eucalyptus, ghostly doubles to our hands thrown forward deep through the tissue of home…

…distant bell

not so much a fear of being alone, but of not living like Sir Philip Sidney (whose birthday you may or may not share) on his death bed surrendering his water to another (distant bell) whispering water (I have a virus if I’ve sent you something.  don’t open it.) my findable face in the lost and found, please come, we’ll retrace
our tracks through buildings now gone…more light
…celebrities once lived in these pool houses, now rebar spines and concrete femurs brightly tagged slash like lightning the dark hillsides (oh, my boldness, these complex and secretive ruins surrounded by air around which we must be very carefully – how wonderfully we breathe

The Singing at Dusk

Begin with my free-fall and badly overdubbed language as I come down from the trees, my clumsy gestures  as deeply into the mud as I can away from what I’ve known by heart, what I’ve left to dry in the sunny shine the fleshy sides stained in vermillion dye for a good guffaw where you ought to be more careful
outside Cleveland proper

Star-dust-returned-building-block, a comet flecks the air planting seeds where elms will reach to where
armies unravel (coat, Bible, nutmeg, sock, epaulet, pistol…)
grow lighter, and dawn in the bent light of this ice where I play as a child

And now what example might I turn to with nothing up its sleeve, when someday soon, yawning open ranging widely over a maimed and silent congregation, awakened in a vacant home, this greater terror:
“that I should no more feel with those who feel”

where tune the lyre and fall is how it’s a long fucking way up is sometimes sung
o rose of rusted roofs, gyre against the last light where I stand deep in Ohio where the sun rose today

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