Quartet for Motor, Wind, Heartbeat, Landslide
by Jasmine Dreame Wagner
Exhaust blears the sand on the underside of the acacia, the umber side of the umbrella, the yellow parchment, thistles slicing the tarpaulin. We drive to a place and perform for it. We clatter in caravans. With cameras we graft the buffalo to the impala, the dik dik to the oryx. Our elands spawn hyrax, genet, civet, serval. Gazelles ignore us. Become contortionists. Consult thesauruses. Expend their whims, weave, bow. Topi break into couplets, vervets agape under crowny thorns. Dust peels back a sky dark as an amethyst. In the dusk, we spy a warrior. He extends a spear to see how deep the water, how strong the torrent. A native woman cradles an unknown object. We're spooked. So are they.
In altitude sickness, in the crinoline, in the pen that dries fast, in vertebrae sinking into foam. Doors creak and bang shut along the tiled hallway. How many forms can doors take? Gasoline, envelopes, goats along the lane where we eat roast goat and buy blue beads and army-green watercolor camouflage paintings where girls flare like cigarettes and scatter across the canvas. They meet the gun at the dance. They shake all night, they shimmy with switchblades in their knee-highs and make their way home by the light of a Maglite. We buckle in their stony rooms, killing spiders with our boots. We walk on stilts through their cities from midnight until morning. Ants willow through the rheum to cart away the honey-laced bodies. How many bodies, how many doors?
Burl at the end of a glove of bread. Mouth and gag of a mine shaft. Should we or shouldn't we bank the vent, apply a tilde to it. Withhold its rent, clock its hedges. Whether our sun guns its engine, whether we applaud. Weatherproof the windows whether or not we winter the Whirlpool. Whether the whip-poor-will. Whether we flood and flee, whether we pack our rucksacks. A fog in its funhouse smogging a virus, a viral chorus, a black-ribbon fence with a shrike on every other post, opening, opens. Whether a rig, a vaccination. Whether a dime bag. Whether a diamond, a hyacinth tops the plaster cask of the Heron Hotel. Today, we bottle bottled water. Tomorrow, the grout—rained out.
Composition desires. The weight of a horsefly distends the canopy. The intention of the fly is to cast and bank, absorb flux and output seasons. Condense the hibiscus, make a tincture of it. Its shadow is an elephant atop a prehensile cliff. Dark matter warps its marble in a lucite and gravel inlay, mediates memory with pistons and rank. Runs a warm gray bath to sanitize the gangplank, applies a local anesthetic. Fever afflicts the proper symmetry of the contoured flesh of the conch. Black satellites mapping each bank of straw and hair and skin bend the tawny palm fronds in. Fossils omit beginnings but fail to omit terror. The intention of the satellite is to survive. To transmit.
JASMINE DREAME WAGNER 's poetry has previously appeared in Verse,
Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Seattle Review, North American Review, 32 Poems, La Petite Zine, MiPOesias and others, and is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary. A graduate of Columbia University, she is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana and was a writer-in-residence at The Hall Farm Center for Arts & Education in Townshend, Vermont, during the summer of 2006.