Sentimental Atom Smasher, by Darcie Dennigan

So this guy walks into a bar and asks for a beer. Sorry, 
      the bartender says, I only sell atom smashers 

      And the guy says well isn't that America for you—
every happy-hour Nelson's a homemade physicist and no thank you, 

just an ice cold one, but it's too late—suddenly, he's on his butt 
      in a ballfield where handsome men are chasing a ball over grass 

      sad grass, yellow like the hair of his once-young mother! 
and again he says, no thank you—I've seen this movie before 

And the bartender says it's a joke and you're inside its machine... 

      Hey, the guy wants to say—I'm not the guy—I'm me 
I'm just a guy who walked into a bar. I'm just a guy who retreats 

to his car for a private cry. Instead he sniffs and cries out—
      The sky smells like the bologna from when I was a boy! 

      Ahh, says the bartender, ahh yes. Someone has left 
the refrigerator door of the cosmos open a crack 

And the view! cries the guy. The beauty of an atom smasher, 
      says the bartender, even from the cheap seats you see 

      clear into 1952. And the guy, squinting into the distance, 
starts to bawl. Maybe it's the vendors hawking 

commemorative popcorn, or the programs promoting emotion 
      ("the matter of the universe!") printed on material whose pulp 

was milked from the trunk of a winesap apple tree, but— 
      What's the matter? says the bartender. And the guy says, 

I'm confused. Am I allowed to be homesick in a joke? 
       Yes, the bartender says. It's elemental, the bartender says—

       How streets are downtrodden atoms and falling leaves are aflutter 
atoms and beer is over-the-moon atoms. The moon's an atomizer 

of all matter's perfumes: And the guy starts to parse it out— 
       Wait, I'm not smart, but if emotion's a material substance 

       then when a leaf falls in my lap and I hold it, 
like an about-to-be-abandoned baby, I'm touching "aflutter" in 3-D? 

Dear fluttering leaf! 
Streets—I'm sorry for stepping on you! Apples—for coring you, and beer—

* * *

A guy walks into a bar, 

—actually just the beer-drinking bleachers of a ballfield—and says 
       is this some kind of joke? 

       Well, says the bartender who has observed the little lamb 
and the tyger burning bright and tickled their particulates, 

because your life has lately been stagnant, we have yoked you 
       to a joke and we await the gasp that will gas up the cosmos... 

       Just then, there's a hit at the plate—and it's going, 
it's going—gone to smash the guy in the skull 

       And since baseballs are made of nostalgia atoms, the guy, 
with concussion, says I want to buy a coke for a nickel 

       I want to install apple pie perfumemakers in the crotch of every tree 
Bartender, bring me dried nosegays! Start the stalwart pageants! 

        And the moon's spritzing its perfumes and the phlegm is thick and fast 
And the bartender says time to wallow in byproducts: 

        Where we planted peanut shells, we got shaky, palsied trees 
Where we planted nickel cokes, we got nicked cans 

Where we planted baseballs we grew large, sad eyeballs 
        as we watched for something to grow. Still, still 

        we atom-probe: In a dark building a child is 
about to be born. The smell of bread is about to 

        break. And our guy is going, O spring evenings! 
How I used to stand yelping in the alley by the bakery... 

        Who are these boys throwing baseballs? Who is this baby? 
O bartender, tell me, what is the message in this light rain? 

But the bartender's dark eyes are flying 
        over centerfield, over the rooftops and watertowers of the joke's 

        universe, over alleys and cold valleys of refrigerator light 
toward an aptest eve where these street kids are hurling a ball into 

the moonlight and the moonlight is curdling into freon...

 

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The Feeling of the World As a Bounded Whale Is the Mystical [The child affixes], by Darcie Dennigan

The child affixes one of her little pictures to my refrigerator. 
She asks, Can you detect the radiation? 

There is a house, one tree, and grass in dark slashes. A sun
shining. Beneath, in her child letters, she has written Chernobyl. 

At kindergarten they must be having nuclear energy week. 

One could look at the picture and say everything is in order. 
No, I say, I cannot see the radiation. 

The radiation poison, she says, sits 
inside the apple and the apple looks pretty. Then she singsongs, 

Bury the apple and bury the shovel that buried the apple 
and put the apple-burier person in a closet forever. 

We are both thinking Then bury the burier.
Both thinking of her picture with no people. 

The poison sits inside the people and the people 
still look pretty, she says. Still, she says, sweetly, Away with them. 

The child is not a flincher, which is why I love to tell her stories: 

Of the poisonous man who tumbled into the cold sea 
and turned the sea poignant. 
His bones glowed in the cold deep like dying coral. 
His ribcage was a cave for small, lost fish. 
Flecks of his glowing skin joined with green algae 
on the sea surface, where, on a boat, his widow choked 
as she looked down the sun shaft for her husband's greening body.

What is sunlight through seawater most like 
but the strange green fire 
that burnt the man? 
—Who had worked atop a steel hill until a whale—
a great green whale—bumped into the continental shelf 
and the steel hill cracked and its poison leaked out. 
And the man began to melt...

What I am jealous of in the child, what I really detest in her 
is how she nods 

with kindergarten grace and finality. Primly, into her pinafore, 
she tucks what I've told of the story. 

On the refrigerator her picture looks so pretty. 
There is no end to the green or pollen or the feeling of the bees coming.

Or of a hill and sky of poison. 

On fire, the man working on the reactor must have looked wavy— 
like a man trying to ride a humpback through the fast green sea. 

Her picture on the refrigerator looks so pretty. 

When I wake her from her nap I will ask 
if the dark green slashes are meant to be 
radiance, not plain grass.

 

En Route, by Darcie Dennigan

The infant asleep in the trough is a Buddhist.
This time of year is very, very old. Over eggs, 
that is all we can conclude, us who are asleep, 
who are dreaming this long dream. 
What if this infant could be awoken? 
There is someone in heaven who for centuries 
an infinite number of centuries, has been 
perfecting himself. Is he here now with us, 
watching for a red globe to roll off the tree into 
wretchedness? To pick up the crying infant is to 
teach it trust and love. But to suffer: 
babe-in-the-manger, we will all be 
the dead man if we live long enough. If we are 
even alive. I am not sure that I exist right now, 
actually.  (I have been a word in a book
I have been a tree
high, high above the Tuileries!)
This infant must learn to cry itself to sleep.
This infant must learn to dream itself awake.
Please god continue my own dreams into 
infinity: must get glitter glue to spell our names 
on the stockings. No, must awake from this 
world. He is crying. No not “he.” Say “it is 
crying.” It is snowing. It is crying. This time of 
year is old. The cold and dark: were they 
not made for us to hold the infant against? 
Shouldn’t we name ourselves and the things 
we love? (darcie.carl.remy.fiammetta.december) 
Of the six destinies they say to be human is the 
hardest but it is the one I have loved the most.
Perhaps because I have not suffered enough.
This time of year might be ancient. Older than 
suffering. If this world were a dream, we would 
speak of it, for the root of dream is noise. Yet! 
The infant is he who is unable to speak… It is 
unspeakable. The infant cries. It pains me.
Oh brusque intuition, oh illogic answer…
I will arrive at you.

 

The Feeling of the World As a Bounded Whale Is the Mystical [The child affixes], by Darcie Dennigan

The child affixes one of her little pictures to my refrigerator.
She asks, Can you detect the radiation?

There is a house, one tree, and grass in dark slashes. A sun
shining. Beneath, in her child letters, she has written Chernobyl.

At kindergarten they must be having nuclear energy week.

One could look at the picture and say everything is in order.
No, I say, I cannot see the radiation.

The radiation poison, she says, sits
inside the apple and the apple looks pretty. Then she singsongs,

Bury the apple and bury the shovel that buried the apple
and put the apple-burier person in a closet forever.

We are both thinking Then bury the burier.
Both thinking of her picture with no people.

The poison sits inside the people and the people
still look pretty, she says. Still, she says, sweetly, Away with them.

The child is not a flincher, which is why I love to tell her stories:

Of the poisonous man who tumbled into the cold sea
and turned the sea poignant.
His bones glowed in the cold deep like dying coral.
His ribcage was a cave for small, lost fish.
Flecks of his glowing skin joined with green algae
on the sea surface, where, on a boat, his widow choked
as she looked down the sun shaft for her husband’s greening body.

What is sunlight through seawater most like
but the strange green fire
that burnt the man?
—Who had worked atop a steel hill until a whale—
a great green whale—bumped into the continental shelf
and the steel hill cracked and its poison leaked out.
And the man began to melt…

What I am jealous of in the child, what I really detest in her
is how she nods

with kindergarten grace and finality. Primly, into her pinafore,
she tucks what I’ve told of the story.

On the refrigerator her picture looks so pretty.
There is no end to the green or pollen or the feeling of the bees coming.

Or of a hill and sky of poison.

On fire, the man working on the reactor must have looked wavy—
like a man trying to ride a humpback through the fast green sea.

Her picture on the refrigerator looks so pretty.

When I wake her from her nap I will ask
if the dark green slashes are meant to be
radiance, not plain grass.