THERMOS 2: Chas. Speck

It’s been years since Chas. Speck first gave us these poems, and it was a few years before that when we first saw his poetry in graduate school. Chas. is living in Washington now. Once, however, he formed, with Melissa and I, 3/4 of an Iowa Lakes garage band that played one show of covers for a friend’s birthday party. Think of these poems as coming from that place. — AS



Apostate


I’ve given up on my brethren
The neighbors hog the bleachers
They bring no oil
Just murmurs and mutters
Bumper stickers for the mortuary
All that’s left of this bell choir
Dwindle into nothingness
You think your heart is in your hand
But when you look down
It’s just a shape the fingers make
Look at this shining thing
Stuck into your vein
Filling you with someone else
Transfusions transposings
Forget about lions or hunting
Doped up animals for trophies
Yesterday a 12 year old boy
Swung a sword
And severed a man’s head from his body
Where’s the irony in all this sincerity?
You’d think we’d be better
After all the cloning
At covering for our hurt
These people they want a garden in their lungs
They twirl like windmills
Spinning for power
Car noises keep me up under the bridge
Wishing for the drill of purpose
Screeching through its teeth
Why isn’t my life as easy to change as these words?
Isn’t it the same thing?



Empire


The floors are writing love letters,
why else would they be on fire? The fields of grass
panting heavily, why else
would they be steaming? Tell me,
how deep is the grass on the moon?
What can we mine there? The glow-in-the-
dark powder of God’s bones set to rest.
I can see the backlit stage of each half-lit star,
you walking through a river of hands.
Where a glass heart is heated
the windows shiver – Is this
what you call an oath, every artist
heedless with blood blooming from their necks?
I pinch the ten tongues of a wish.
Here comes whatever it is
in the middle of the ocean
the water is constantly running from.



New Face


Water falls into your eyes as you put on your new face
Even a dead dog smiles
You cut your mouth open so you can breathe again
No bruises on your skin though
A shadow floats over your shoulder like a hungry ghost
A table made from flowing water
A robed woman bound in the basement with the toy dinosaurs
The dead resting her head against an anvil

A shadow floats across you and stops half way
You feel her breath against your scalp
A bruise you’re not familiar with
A hole in your chest you could reach into
That dead woman
You thought you were to bury her in such a hole
She unscrews your skull and out pops a fruit bowl
She takes out your brain and out snaps the hand she left behind
A hand shaped like an ampersand
She rests your head between the open jaws of a vice clamp
The most beautiful thing you will ever see is your own two eyes exploding



Making Minds


In the process of making our minds we broke them,
separated the shell from the beans, ground them,
subtracted the oils and extracts and found
there were many minds waiting to be made –
the pulp anxious to be a box, to contain, itself
a series of shells broken into smaller shells.
Then the breaking became sequential – each mind
containing something larger than itself – our arms
turning the gavel so as to wear evenly
the forged form, mold the right angles, twisting
like tops spinning in our shoulders – a piston
pumping through the waves of our being –
but stop. Were our energies not perfect?
Were we bludgeoning down to nothing?
I saw you across the table staring at your
reflection in a plate, the same you
and nothing between us but a hum, a tone
striking the strings of our minds.
What had you assembled there – some altar of breakage,
some commandment? Did I suddenly
know nothing, or had it been this way all along?
Who could remember the density, the sweetness
now lost as breaking can be, becoming more lost
with each new mind made, the same lost
only more abundant, the original fruit.

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