Sunday, March 14, 2021

Supercell by Ange Mlinko


I’m waiting for this shrub to sew itself back in its soil.
Hearing its roots rip when I transplanted it made me ill
(though a cress or a lettuce remains my most favorite food).
A wind tore it up again, or it was undermined by flood.
Through the sorghum fields between Victoria and Lavaca,
a supercell, spurting electricity, smothered the ton of lava,
mounted in the sky, that characterizes sunset there.
But the tapestried sorghum fields created an atmosphere
that defied the monotony I associate with agriculture.
Planting, for me, means flowers, fitting embouchure
for birds; or aloes, answering to a sculptural imperative
to induce repose, and not just keep us, Lord, alive.
This hardy Duranta attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
May it thrive, and sew itself in as the soil dries.
Between Victoria and Lavaca, in my mind’s eye
I saw a thousand Comanche in cumulonimbi
racing thirty hundred stolen horses over the prairie
to the sea. When the sorghum field, that tapestry,
was little more than “Chocolate Swale” (a sign stuck in the silt,
née swamp), official history passed the bolus of guilt
back and forth, from the Comanche, who kept back captives,
to the Texans, who (in what may have been an interpretive
blunder) slaughtered the chiefs, back to the Comanche,
who torched their captives in revenge and went on “an orgy
of horse-thieving.” While at night Comanche jump
on Texas with a thump, the dream of one Buffalo Hump
results in enough calico and ribbon to get lost in
(as I sew myself into this clay) riding back to Austin.
Too late. Juliet Constance managed to get her hem wet
but they seized her and stripped her down to the whalebone corset
—flummoxed. While the townspeople watched from dinghies offshore,
on that hand-over-hand surf, helpless, they later swore
her whalebone corset wouldn’t budge. They saw the town burning,
the warehouses looted; and in the smoke’s going and returning,
Comanche donning the top hats and pigeon-tailed coats.
Adorned with all the brass buttons a merchant ship could float,
and twirling their parasols and festooning each his horse
with ribbon, the Comanche rode off. In the cumulonimbus
of their dust, they took our bibelot Juliet.
Buffalo Hump, meet Whalebone Corset!
For a gold watch her young husband perished. El Dorado:
where there’s pyrite in the piranha, gilt in the sweet potato.
Gold in the sorghum tassels, gold in the sargassum weed
strewing the shore where they put Juliet on a stolen steed.
Gold when wet, that is; rust-brown when dry; furring the coast,
drying at different rates in the sun, so gold and rust co-roast.
It seemed a herd of buffalo was barbered by some god at first.
But in these alien bouquets tossed from the largest sea on earth,
and bounded by no lands, live animals find harbor.
Exquisite minnow worlds of crabs, shrimp—sheer automata—
crawfish cling to the tangle and grape (cf. “sargasso”).
I’ve seen the gulls in their tuxedo’d appetite clothed go
pecking there. Meanwhile, into an upended frisbee’d
world my kids shake the bundles of sargassum seaweed,
collecting their own marine menagerie for observation.
The liverish waves play on, sunlight doled out in rations
from grape-stained clouds to whiten froth exploding in our ears.
A sulfurous wind blows in, then as suddenly disappears.
The deep-blue, upended frisbee looks like nothing less
than a saucer of primal soup from Genesis,
the first meal of the first day. By the seventh all Creation and we
were invited to the feast of ourselves, into perpetuity.
She was saved a second time, that Juliet,
when a crop of arrows foundered on her whalebone corset.
Saved, then, with nothing more than a sunburn. And still
nothing more than a stone commemorating Linnville
between new tract housing and the littoral.
Calico of wildflowers sewing themselves to the soil,
and a man licking his arrowhead, that his DNA be
shot through the heart that pins her to the ponderosa tree.

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