Mudlark Flash No. 45 (2008)

Christopher Cessac | Milton, Louisiana & Homer, New York

Christopher Cessac’s book REPUBLIC SUBLIME won the Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Cimarron Review, Kenyon Review, Sycamore Review and elsewhere. One of his poems won the 2006 Pelleas Long Poem Contest sponsored by The Modern Review, and another was chosen to introduce the book RIO GRANDE, an anthology of prose including work by Larry McMurtry, John Reed, Américo Paredes, Woody Guthrie, Molly Ivins and others.

Milton, Louisiana

We lie to our young. Exiled
from calm, only motion remains

to define us. Glorious dust,
even tragedy escapes us.

Milton Volunteer Fire Department,
have mercy upon us and protect us—

hammering out of our owne hearts,
as it were out of a flint, the seeds and sparkles

of new misery to our selves,
till all were in a blaze againe...

The Argument: you—half-full glass
of wine, a Byzantine halo gold

as any god—maintain skies dull as mud
might rain, then bright blossoms, etc.,

the overbearing allure of life...
Rebuttal: I—a cause for everything, at once

efficient, material, formal, final—conclude
Luke got this right: there shall be weeping.

Mammon and Moloch throw the best parties,
agreed, but so much of life crawls or darts

beyond our perception. Wisdom? Years and age
bring blindness. Enter a Chorus of Angels:

“Limitations of space forbid full disclosure.
Trust us.” Recall the motion of puppets,

villains and heroes, the rush and lag of youth...
Recoil, serpent, a glistening live oak

in Louisiana is no more alone
than the rest of us. Romance

has always been our best opportunity
for tragedy—falling between worlds and worlds—

hand in hand with wandring steps and slow...
close, closer, mud against mud,

unendurable grace of pure desire: Easier
than air with air.
A familiar myth retold

endlessly, knowledge, the fall, blah, blah,
a burlesque of death and life, of potential...

These too-measured portions of happiness
versus the infinite we long to deserve.

Homer, New York

Homer, one more Greek Revival
off Main Street will be the answer

to what? Doric columns, two stories, etc.
For whom? One more Jedediah or Hannum

pork-barrelling mercantile fantasies,
a horse trade then another, an extra

capital gain, another lost cause, one more
more—because, children of Homer, because.

Should we abandon our meager libraries
to laws and liturgies? What the past suffered

is cause for rebellion. We’re all veterans
of a too familiar war: all tomorrows

versus the next moment. Stop. Come,
anywhere, maybe we’ll drive down

to Virgil, slow through ice and wind,
the car radio desperate to bring us

comfort and comfort is good—
even our thick heads grasp that much

on occasion. Occasionally, to prove
there’s nothing extraordinary about us,

we do just as our ancestors: we choose
from among the most successful gods

and call it faith or love or fate. Less myth
than rumor, a brutal alphabet of grunt

and groan and howl, the smallest sounds
that can pass for truth—a slim volume

from any library: Horace or Sappho
or Hank Williams, all tomorrows

or the next moment. Stop. Consider
ancients in Scandinavia who sang of gods

fighting chaos and evil to the end
despite understanding their destiny

was to fail before chaos and evil. Homer,
those were rare gods worthy of our love.

Copyright © Mudlark 2008
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