The Deep Cross-Sectional Plunge
I keep always on my person the deed to my pinkie-ring-size plot of land, a narrow cylinder slicing through fescue and fungal soil; demitasse spoons black with tarnish; clots of hair and reticulations of bone; sinkholes and methane pockets; infinitesimal winged creatures soaring in soil—
yes, there is flight underground, as well as crosswinds, flumes and estuaries; aquifers and cavernous suspensions; flames and bogs and tides where gravity self-deforms as though straining to flow sideways; the chalk-white roots of mountains; inverted trees with constellations of mica flakes glinting in their branches; the skeletons of miniature albino horses in migration; petrified Viking ship beams folded in with glacial leavings; radioactive isotopes; oscillating magnetic fields; solar neutrinos to which the earth is mere transparency—
all that abides below or wanders, descends, falls through to the precise midpoint of the innermost core.
I am happy, no, I am relieved to affirm that everything rising toward the opposite side is someone else’s responsibility.
The sign by the door announces their policy: Un crayon pour chaque mot.
In true European style, one visits this establishment très tôt le matin, purchasing only what is nécessaire pour ce jour.
To do otherwise—to “stock up”—would this not be to prove oneself aussi avare comme un américain?
Out of regard for la situation existentielle, there is no muzak: with sapient et magnifique langereuse the citizens select their blunt nouns, their slim adverbs, and pour variété syntaxique et extension, their stubby articles & conjunctions.
Soon, all the baskets are heaped up, weighed down, since even for le communicateur le plus parcimonieux, a day requires lexical abundance.
Et regarde! Par la fenêtre, le soleil se lève.
The shoppers line up to pay in priceless, inarticulate sighs.
After the last remaining waterfall had thawed in winter, unweaving the warp and weft of its silence; after people no longer gathered as though by a hearth to watch the shreds of the only surviving glacier emit its ancient kinetic blue; after the waters had risen and everyone had taken refuge on rafts of all kinds and sizes lashed together, there came a generation of children who’d never set foot on soil, yet cried out in their play, “Look, I’m a tree, I’m a horse, I’m a mountain, I’m the ground!” not fully comprehending these words, so that sometimes trees poured themselves out in avalanche, and sometimes the ground pranced on its hind legs—yes, there were horses rising up to offer shade and fruit, there were mountains galloping long, bearing riders, though these diversions were awkward, not from this lexical confusion, but from the bulky protective garb no one was tempted to remove since they’d witnessed the work of sunlight on carelessly uncovered skin; they’d heard those sounds extracted from the body as though flesh at this point in history had finally found its voice.
CLAIRE BATEMAN is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently Scape (New Issues), Coronology and Other Poems (Etruscan), and Locals (Serving House). Her next collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, is due out next year as a combined project by 42 Miles Press/Wolfson Press. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and also creates visual art. http://clairebatemanwork.blogspot.com/