Mudlark Flash No. 100 (2016)

Little Anthems
by Scott Keeney

Chance Works | Another Day Comes Hither
Cognitive Slog | Unmendable Guitar String Theory
Some Freedoms Are Not Liberating | Nonstop Ending

Chance Works

You have a chance to be an artist, one
chance. What do you do? I roll up
my sleeves and scratch my armpits
because it’s not getting hot in here, it’s
just me in my heavy shirt. Stop sniffling
and blow your nose. All things old are
still old. I stand up to my bootstraps,
only they are not straps, they are lashes.
Mark me, please, I want to see if I grow
anymore. Swelter, sweltered, sweltering,
one big story is the impending storm,
which is all hot with snow like an envelope
threatening to seal us in and mail us
nowhere, the other is the Republicans
bickering on stage, saying things like
“bring back the warrior class” and “I do
a lot of doing.” Words make the headlines,
but they don’t. A poem simply handles
the unending loop of language and reality
outside, the way the wind has the shadows
of the trees on the invisible ropes of
the square circle of the world. Animal
thoughts, swallowed in the leaves, pages
flip, flipped, flipping, the way Medusa’s head
gets all over the place when it sheds.
There are a thousand different ways
to make art, and not enough. A studied
savoir faire and practiced nonchalance,
the enchanted diamond armor that we
craft so that our characters can wear—
a subtle difference not unlike the difference
between “it will cohere” and “throw
your hands in the air and wave ’em
like you just don’t care.” I see your wild
rhyming couplets and raise you rainwater
droplets. Let’s go make Little Anthems
that examine how evolution is a theme.
I’m not going to ask you to trust me, but,
believe me, we began as sensitive
terrestrial mollusks, and now it is easier
to imagine the kingdom of heaven
when spiders surprise us. Wandering eye
of the needle, excuse me, just passing
through. Across the sky, the clouds shin,
where one work ends, another begins.

Another Day Comes Hither

The days fill with plots like sunshine
I will never understand. Public
water fluoridation has nothing to do
with pouring flour into a reservoir.
I know that much. I may be out-of-sorts,

not to mention off-the-deep-end on
a number of issues, like wanting gun
control, or at least a GPS device
incorporated into every sort of gun,
but I don’t have to run for president.

I drink my morning cup of Fog Chaser.
You see, the day hasn’t actually
got here yet. It’s 6:02 and dark as
climate change outside. The waves
of blue-tinted snow, like small breasts,

like it’s my sunken chest that makes me
sing. Not even my wife wants to hear
that. “My purpose is to make my narrative
as truthful as possible.” That’s what
Custer said. Girl, that’s what we are

up against. Suspicious days, long
with truthfulness, yet short on truth.
I feel one coming hither. Coffee gone,
it’s time to walk such thoughts away
to where the deer go when it blizzards.

Cognitive Slog

Recalcitrant as the water in Flint,
“Fuck that. We ain’t got time to wait
for no email from the nurse.”
Dear applause, we are all suspended.
That’s why I slather my face

in a bee venom mask and sleep
under its dull stinging sensation
for the pop-up tent of eight hours.
I mean someone has to bring you
the news. Look, there’s an empty

beer bottle on the counter and
thirty-seven more under the sink
because ain’t nobody got time to
return shit. Some GIF. I go back
to the crisis in Flint. I am deeper

than the water, murky as cake.
Are you feelin’ me? “Can you
Sexy Walk like me?” When I hum
“row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream,” I am

deliberately emphasizing what comes
next, what comes after the hard-
to-pass anti-corruption legislation
we table and untable in the congress
of ourselves. Namaste and nae nae

and if not now then when may
my nobody be excused?

Unmendable Guitar String Theory

There are people who are not workers?
Oh, I want to be one. Let me have a taste

of that spinach. We are heroic couplets
when we march side-by-side in a parade?

But even standing on the sidelines next
to the Gatorade, the sun gets in our eyes.

Yes, that’s where the sun stands. Visible
grammar, that which breaks in our hard-

count songs, each of us trying to draw the other
offsides, that which means “I can’t go on,

I’ll go on.”  Impressive groove to pregnant
pause. Unmendable guitar string of stop.

Compulsory mistakes, language of quirk.
We are done playing now get back to work.

Some Freedoms Are Not Liberating

I like James Franco. Not that I know him,
but I have no problem with James Franco.
If James Franco wants to be a poet, I mean
he already is a poet, let him be a poet.

If James Franco makes good poems, great.
If James Franco makes shit poems, great.
I will not sit in judgment of James Franco.
Let this be a metaphor for the not James Francos.

James Franco could run for president
against Donald Trump and I would vote
for James Franco. All right, that’s not saying
much. James Franco could run against

any Republican candidate (unless, would
Bloomberg run, ever, as an Elephant?) and
I would vote for James Franco. But who’s
talking about politics? Not James Franco

as far as I know. Maybe he should. Maybe
he should make poems that protest
the unnecessary killing of young black
lives that seems to happen every night

in our Whitmanesque streets, poems that illustrate
the need for a living wage, poems that stand
for a mental health care system with doors
that open, poems that yawp for a semblance

of gun retractability, so we stop shooting each
other in our schools, in our movie theaters,
in our glittering malls and neglected housing projects.
But I would never say James Franco must

write poems of social consciousness, no
more than I would ever say any poet must
write poems of social consciousness. If
James Franco’s a problem, this poem’s a pantoum.

Nonstop Ending

Like a young senator too inexperienced
to be president, I say what I feel
must be said—over and over and over again,
I bring my hard programmatic message,
putting myself on the widening disappearing spot
every time I step out into the dark light
of the stage that is a document’s opened page.

Words undergo a transformation into print,
a slow exaggeration of time, and you are with me
in exotic anywhere, but our movements take us
away from each other, away from the longevity
of art sensible as fluorescent shoes at a funeral,
the way answers flee our pestering voices,
questioning one instant, chatting the nonstop next.

Scott Keeney is the author of Sappho Does Hay(na)ku (Sephyrus 2008). His work has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, Mudlark, New York Quarterly, Poetry East, and other journals. He lives with his family in Newtown, Connecticut, where he is production manager for a publishing services company.

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