Open Letter to Mammon


A muddy touché! Ye villains
of Hong Kong and Dubai,
fork-tongued evangelists of
foreign currency!

We applaud the handing over
of our stolen goods –
May we offer you a free-of-charge
gondola ride over the holy land
a bird’s-eye view of your assets
your wives and daughters, your mothers
your pimps, your priests and pederasts
your arms traders and factory generals
your Legacy on its death march –
advancing with the Exodus
in the shadow of a thunderhead
towards the promise of absolution
in a wine dark sea

Desiccated by desert heat
the old, the weak, and the very young
and others beyond utility
shall remain eternally entombed
under a violent sun–

Still others, inhabitants of bygone ice
of the high steppes,
of the Dengue jungles,
of the sand spit nations,
by your leave they join the fate of those
dragging their feet from Bethlehem
with the taste of sea salt
on their blackened tongues

You, tiny man with the tiny screen,
spitting crimson betel juice
on the shoeshine boy
from the City of God,
on the shoeshine girl
from the City of Angels,
grinning, your bleachies glinting
as the laborers of your camps
vacate the bowels, so oozing with parasites,
of your Super Babylons
of your endless outskirts
of your suburban Irkallas
with their rent-a-Nergals
festering like a thousand boils
upon the continents

The widening gyre spins in
a kaleidoscope
of shampoo bottles

Throw a rock through
the liquor store window –
Go to Jail dot com

Yesterday, a reactor meltdown in Japan,
Tomorrow the monarch will perish
in the rain of highway shoulder poisons,
meanwhile microbeads assemble in
nearshore waters–
they are watching you like
a billion billion billion
primitive eyes in the waves

Forgetting, they abandon the stragglers
shaking breadcrumbs from their pockets
tossing silver coins for the trade rats

Some leave to wander the
emptied alleys and wind tunnels –
woodwinds of the Trades –
echoing in the lonely island temples
sinking back into the oceans
of their emergence

No one to know what the polecat ate
No one to hear the gasping
of the Vaquita and Silky Sifafka
of the Mekong Catfish
as they sink below the surface

But wait, Mammon, remember
your little chochita with
pinto bean skin?
She hides her poison darts
under her Shakira beach towel –
She is coming for you first, hombre

You and your black market organ traders
who sleep like infants and fear nothing
if not the loss of your Legacy –
you must know that It too will be buried
in the sub-sea archives

This text is classified
Your last wishes will be recorded
in the annals of the Lithosphere
lost in the subduction zones
guarded by tube worms –
great scholars of the deep


Seagrasses of Desire

I’ve been an open water swimmer for more than twenty-five years now. Every year we visit family in Southern California and every year I do a daily open-water swim; lately my eldest daughter and nephew have been joining me. Everyone has a different reaction to the seagrass that sways in the surf only feet below the surface. It used to scare me a little, especially when the visibility was poor and I swam over it without seeing it first. It freaks my daughter out to the point that she nearly climbs on top of my back like a cat on a sofa. For reasons too weird and personal to explain, two years ago I lost my irrational fear of the seaweed, the seagrass and even sharks (I used to practically swim in the surf zone I was so afraid of sharks.) People will tell you that there are no sharks around this part of the coast, but no one is telling the sharks that. I say irrational fear because rational fears can be useful at the right time.

Anyway, Prof. Timothy Morton of the UC Davis English Dept. (Ecology Without Nature)  wrote a paper on the Tarkovsky adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s book Solaris – this was one of those rare academic articles that profoundly changed the way I see almost everything, especially things like trees and flowers and even seagrass beds. I think he called the reeds in the pond of Chris Kelvin’s family home “fronds of desire,” which is both beautiful and cool. Anyway, once I actually went down into the beds with my goggles on and watched the graceful, lilting movements of the grasses as they reached towards the sun for energy, everything changed. In the new translation of Lem’s novel (the only official English trans.), the “mimoids” that coalesce on the planet’s volatile surface are sort of an objective correlative for the hidden and ever-shifting subconscious of each of the Solaris scientists. Since the translation is brand new, I look forward to hearing and reading about what scholars like Prof. Morton have to say.