Mudlark Poster No. 81 (2009)

Six Poems by T. R. Hummer

System | Fallacy of Composition | Bald Man Fallacy
The Illegibility of Providence | Infinite by Virtue
of Its Everlastingness
| Bounded by its Own Completeness

T.R. Hummer is the author of 11 books of poetry & prose, most recently The Infinity Sessions (poems) and The Muse in the Machine: Essays on Poetry and the Anatomy of the Body Politic (essays). He teaches creative writing and literature at Arizona State University.


When they cut the geneticist open, their blades revealed
    a schematic of precise and interlocking logic
So familiar that the men with bayonets stepped back—
    not in wonder but in the numbness that comes
From infinite repetition. So much complexity
    the genome wrote. Such a simple answer.

Fallacy of Composition

The noon sky darkens with flying bodies: the extinct birds
    live in the mind, therefore the extinct birds live.
The color of the day deepens with memory. All the wreckage
    of history is eclipsed. The blacksmith raises his hammer
And the red hot horseshoe straightens into an iron bar.
    Consciousness moves like a shadow in the forest
And whole peoples are restored. An arrow flies
    over a rabbit’s shoulder and the rabbit continues,
But the children eat nevertheless. The body testifies 
    without speaking: by walking upright
It makes visible what lies within. Another artillery shell
    Is canceled, another family prays and falls asleep.
A place remains at the empty table for the son 
    who was vaporized. A bed is made and waits
Though the others sleep on the floor. In the silent house
    nobody hears the couple who struggle to conceive
How the mind will bring him back, how the fact is broken. 

Bald Man Fallacy

The sniper’s scope passes over the forehead of a girl
    playing with a block of wood in a drainage ditch,
Moves across the neck of her brother—who teases her
    by throwing dried goat turds like meringue bombs
To destroy her battleship—and comes to rest on the heart
    of their mother, who sits in the shade of a date palm,
Carding wool. Her hands, he thinks without focusing there,
    are quick and accurate. Raising his viewfinder
With his quick and accurate hands, he sees her lips 
    are moving: She sings as she works, a quiet song likely, 
But from here he is deaf to her. Probably her song is ancient,
    and if he knew the culture, if he knew her language, 
He could read her lips through his gun sight.
    he’s in no hurry. It’s hot in the niche where he hides—
Sweat runs down from his helmet and pools
    on his ammo box—but he is not disturbed. 
His weapon contains a great wind from the wilderness.
    If you shoot them one by one, you will never kill them all. 

The Illegibility of Providence

The problem was opaque. She inserted two hooks—
    stainless steel, weighty, sterile—
Into his lower chest beneath the ribcage and drew him
    to her, extracting the whole structure of bone
Clean in that great attraction. He mistook 
    what she wanted. There was a universe imploding,
and he thought the pain was his. A meteor shower,
    a comet, an eclipse: nothing foretold this.
Or perhaps he had simply failed to understand it.
    Another mistake I made, he thought, collapsing
On the overpriced carpet, finally and miraculously spineless.

Infinite by Virtue of Its Everlastingness

She was reading Keats by the fountain
    on an April morning. The iron bench
Was chilly, but the goldfish, excitable, rose
    readily to an offering of gnats.
And what was that urn singing? Christ!
    Only an hour left before the exam!
She started again, but the fountain
    was a distraction, the smear of forsythia
Beyond the copper fence, a car alarm
    blocks away. And what drew gnats to water—
A ticking insect thirst, or the light reflected there?
    Her boyfriend was handsome, but almost
Afraid to touch her. What was light to a gnat?
    What was water? No time. She wanted
To read, but her answer prevented her.
    What Keats was trying to say,
She wrote in her mind. Trying to say.

Bounded by its Own Completeness

Beyond the floodwall, flats: tide out or ocean
    evaporated, extinct—the photograph
Will be unforthcoming. But in the middle distance
    a grey smudge, bird-blur, establishes
That something has survived. He looks up
    from the viewfinder, satisfied.
Out of the parking lot behind him, synthesized
    Mozart, sound track of an ice cream truck,
And a single sea-gull rasp from the sky: the prophetic
    rat with wings has vaporized against the sun.

Copyright © Mudlark 2009
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