Mudlark Flash No. 79 (2013)

The Way We Live Now
Poems by Kryssa Schemmerling

Anthony Trollope in Beijing, 2013
Ghost Language | Tiger in Harlem
Elegy for Incandescence

Anthony Trollope in Beijing, 2013

Beijing is now the modern equivalent of Victorian London,
whose famous “fog” was actually smog caused by coal dust... 
                                                                — National Post
              Whither Peking?
the Englishman wonders
as he wanders the capital,
mutton-chopped, topcoat
pulled tight. Baffled,
he dodges

celestials pedaling machines
through masses
of particulate matter settled over the city
like tea leaves
at the bottom of a country squire's
porcelain cup.

Trollope doesn't read Chinese, but he knows
this smoke, this sooty
twilight pumped in, day and night,
from provincial factories faster
than any Manchester magnate
could have imagined.

It's China's century.
Brush the coal
dust off the Fruits of Industry
and consume! The people
have changed, but it's the same
revolution accelerated. Capital

spit out
in triple time clouds
forecasts. Fair or foul,
Trollope keeps his umbrella close.
               He knows money
makes it own weather.

Ghost Language

The gift horses, wish horses, horses
you can lead to water
but can’t make drink
have all left the barn, disappeared
down in mouths, abandoned wells
we still remind each other
not to look into.

No one remembers
what tenterhooks are
even when one is on them. Out
on vanished limbs, vestigial as cows
that won’t come home again,
as country miles
crows no longer fly.

We still want our sleep tight
but have forgotten the beds
of rope pulled taut inside
houses divided and fallen.
All that’s left are the keys.
Drop them in the bucket
and keep on going.

Tiger in Harlem

Someplace in the city, there is a large wild animal. 
A large wild animal who’s biting people. (Anonymous caller 
to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, CNN)
How far you traveled from the forests
of night, from the hushed recesses
of a library in Buenos Aires. Untangled
from strands of mangrove, released
from verse and stanza. More corporeal
than Blake or Borges imagined. Rivers
of piss seep through project floors, your scent
persistent as need. Neighbors saw raw meat
in the mauled arms of a quiet young man down the hall
who called you “brother, best friend, only friend, really,”
but could not imagine past
apartment walls, strained and cracked, as you expanded
beyond abstraction, a mad idea made real, too
magnificent to grasp.

Elegy for Incandescence

And sparks flew upward, shed
from Heaven’s voltaic arc
when women brushed their hair
a hundred strokes each night by whale
oil light’s mammalian warmth, by gas
lamps they learned not to blow out
like candles. By incandescents,
filaments fine as broken insect
limbs, seeds rattling under earth
shaped glass, echoes of the sunworked:
tuber, corm. Soon
to be bulbs
in name only. Heat spent,
radiance ebbs,
spheres lengthen into snakes,
coiled up, compact
stars implode, coldblooded.

Kryssa Schemmerling is a poet and filmmaker. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 2River View, Big City Lit, Poecology, and The Same. And her most recently completed film project is a feature-length documentary about surfing in Rockaway Beach, Queens, entitled Our Hawaii. Kryssa lives in Brooklyn.

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