Asphalt Scream, image by Nathan Spoon
excerpts 44 and 45 from ZION OFFRAMP
44. Bath, Kelmscott, the Cotswolds
Mute. Silent. Speechless or stopped
of speech. Trembling into
the tube, into the fractious turbid
wave. Compare at once
the varied siren patterns,
truck engine heaving and catching,
and sparseness of birds’ evensong.
Night is drawing mute, nigh on
suffusing darkness. Wintering outside,
the can’s paint separates, pigment
sludge from wan skim-milk medium.
The mountains are moving, though not
by faith. Like semen the medium,
drooled over her knuckles and down
my thigh, drying on the boards
to pale gray streaks.
the genius of the place
lays itself out in framed
ponds spreads across acres
of lilies green pointed
yew passages from room
to room tousled
and dry beds
to sinks of color
and scent cubes
of standing heat
That duty remain the mystery
underneath, soil thrusting up
the yellow-stone cottages
and occasional church spires
folded into the hedge-crossed
hill; beneath the Georgian
streets, matrons slaves
and centurions spill out
their offerings to the polynymic
gods, regardless of etymology
or lingual decorum. Too much
time here, depressing and overheating
the clutch through the village
“high” street. I too would be
a hedonist, snatch the day
like a greedy toddler,
if not for the mute reproach
of those patient flowers
and stricken, emblematic
birds, repeated up and down
the walls to a dizzy intricate
fortissimo. The mulberries, fallen,
have bloodied the garden path;
take care not to tread them
into the house, stain the floors
and advertise our common fallenness.
This land stubbornly pays tribute
to Hope and Glory, endless procession
of Dutch and High German trainers
dusted with the dust of its lanes
and parterres. The walls, though! the walls
so hung with the elaborate
dervish-work of Isfahan, flowers
and leaves of Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Beneath the Parade Ground march
a regiment of cats and dogs, beloved, mourned.
The sun dapples its way across
the garage’s asphalt
shingles, blotched green with moss
on the corner always in shadow.
After rain, the driveway seems
to steam, insect noises rising
into a momentary chorus.
There is no mystery to things.
Or, things are their own mystery.
The hall, darkened, stays cool
till nearly noon. Marks
of the McVeighs, marks of
the Marzullos: glow-in-the-dark
constellations on one ceiling;
sliding meathook in the basement;
unidentified brown stain on the baseboard
of the power-room; keys to no
known locks on a NASA keyring.
Localism of faith, or faith
as an affair of places. In the “smoking
room” of a Pennsylvania lodge,
where an old man introduced himself
as “the Creeper,” short he said
for “Creeping Jesus,” and offered
to share his weed. Turkish woman
on the Embarcadero, recalling
harvesting Latakia in her childhood.
The first time I saw our hostess
in Donaghadee, folding back
the rearview mirrors to thread
a driveway between stone walls.
The Mason jars on the cellar
shelves, their own mystery. My grandfather,
everyone said, was a drunk. My father’s
earliest memory, from a poor childhood,
was his mother’s thrifty weeping, picking the shards
of glass from the mess
of a broken jar of peanut butter.
(Golden Pond, Kentucky.) I knew
him only from jaunty youthful
or grimly middle-aged photographs. (Golden
Pond, or Fungo. Bait shops, a saloon,
cafés. A pool gleaming in the dawnlight,
or sprinkled with dust to spark
and erstaz bullion rush. Now
Ghost Town, site, highway marker.)
The wrong road, in a place without roads.
Was there a pattern underneath everything,
a map to plot the slobbering eccentricities,
the happy, satisfied mean? If the middle road
is best, how to find it
without a decent map
a decent GPS?
Another level down, huddled
to the ground, damp stone and halogen,
fluorescent light, the night pressing
in a chorus of insects.
Summer’s last days trail off
into opening autumn: what, after all,
makes a suburb? The spiral jetty,
the triptych read from left
to right: yet once more, to the sound
of the wheezing harmonium, little
Matty Groves beds his master’s wife,
wheedles a sword into his hand,
lies down in blood.