"And if you are addicted to sleep, a bay of fresh coffee may help.
If you are addicted to coffee, teach yourself to breakdance." - Terrance Hayes
Alex Chambers teaches audio storytelling at the IU Media School and is an organizing fellow with We Own It, where he is working to re-energize democratic participation in rural electric co-ops. His poetry book, Binding: A Preparation, was released by Pickpocket Books and Ledge Mule Press in 2019. His next book project is based on his dissertation, Climate Violence and the Poetics of Refuge.
Welcome to The Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Alex, what poems have you brought us?
To Buffy, Vampire Slayer
At the abandoned science lab where they store
Bunsen burners, oxygen tanks and half-empty
cans of gasoline, we fell for you and your vampire lover.
Dead or alive you were irresistible for seven years,
each WHAM and POCK of the penetration of your stake
filling me with relief that a girl doing such
good work—cleansing, with the assurance of a president,
her high school of monster bullies seduced by the insincere words of nerdy,
intelligent outcasts—has the same hang-ups as any upper-middle-class California high school
junior with a perfect body and consistently great hair. The pots and pans
knocking around in the cupboard are calling for me to cook a
lignonberry pie or, better, something with
meat for my hungry wife, wiped out from mowing the lawn and drinking a beer,
now, on the couch in front of the TV. Back then, imagining
opening the door to the science lab, we felt the heat of the
power coursing through your hands, your legs, those
quintessentially threatening girl-eyes we could stare at for seasons.
Save your friends and the rest of us from the
temptations of broad shoulders and buxom lifeless cheerleaders. The
undead surround us. They’re fearless and chasing
virgins to taste the nonchalance of innocence.
We live in between, understanding that
Xander will never fall for Willow
(yet he does, he does), dreaming of
zombies attacking us, with you at their heels.
And together they lived among ice cream and airplanes.
They lived among string theories, shapes in the snow,
breakfasts, commuter flights and bags of flour. They lived
among the dying. They lived among slowly roasting onions,
PCBs, tempranillos, wood-shavings. Among sacrifice,
azaleas, and shadows in caves. Among billions and billions
of hamburgers. And when they lived they lived among
the varied songs of catbirds and repeated predictions
of storms. They lived among sprung rhythms and hung
shocked gods and their feet tickled lunching crawdads and
beach sand and sand dollars and currency exchange. Wind
and thistles and tilth. Euros, dollars, renminbi. They lived
among each other’s lips and limbs tangled with angels
on a fertile, troubled floodplain upon which the empire
was advancing, had advanced, had settled and had starved
of soil, and among the fields stricken with bindweed,
the occasional family of foxes, the rising seas. They lived
among breathtakingly little despair. They lived among
those things with which their missing god, infinitely gone,
had blessed the world as she waved goodbye, goodbye,
and, oh, good luck. They felt fucked but kept living among
fast-passing days, together mortal and celebrating. They lived
among clocks and carburetors. They lived among mountain
columbine and desert sage on a planet that shimmered
in solar wind from a sun whose radiance was like a god’s
but warmer and wider, deeper in weeping and laughter.
Among the others’ gravity they spun. Falling and swung
between hunger and talk they touched hands, and leaned.
Light blooms from eyes now, from
salty shoulders, from tongues, from fingers
crossing paths in a sultry wakeful night.
Say it, yes,
this is a morning,
on a shining sea.
Yes again to troth,
a tango, gravity’s pull and sway,
the swell and swale of truth,
watery dance over a ragged ocean.
Say it, eye of a new cycle,
hurricaning the world—
mustard seeds and coconut globes—
into new ground.
Say it. Yes,
broken-bottled, pained, we lie
awake and afraid under the lion sky,
twirling an aimless vine,
wilting for months in a long doubt.
Shadow is where we’ll grow,
in sleep or the lee of a green stem.
Yes and therefore be
a shock of faith,
electric gleam from a missing moon
and cloud the blue of the burning sky and be
the downpour of a lovestorm
on this parched and edgy planet.
Late High Modernism
The young guy at the public library
in Reebok sweats and a t-shirt
with huge arms
(that’s a misplaced modifier)
smacks his gum
before cracking open Ulysses