INVENTORY OF THE BOTTOM OF LAKE MICHIGAN
the poems I would've written if I were home for Thanksgiving
WORDS: NICK MARTINO '15
IMAGES: RUBY LANET '18
Inventory of the Bottom of Lake Michigan (on paper)
When I returned home to Milwaukee I went looking for something definite. The inventory of the bottom of Lake Michigan, stolen from a drawer in the basement of the Smithsonian. The man who stole it for me said:
“Look, I really shouldn’t be doing this. Nothing personal guy, it’s just I could lose my job, ok? I took some pretty fuckin explicit orders. I signed a confidentiality agreement. I took a fuckin seminar. I wore a suit for fucks sake. You think HIPAA’s got teeth? This shit would make HIPAA shit its pants. This is some end-of-the-line ultraclandestine Area 51 level shit here, I’m talking something they’d put a bolt of hot lead in your head for bucko. They’d fuck with you, they’d fuck with your family, they’d even fuck with your fucking dog. Forget the fucking job, you really want me to end up floating off some dock in Port Washington? Fuck that.
What’s so scary bout working at the Smithsonian?…kid, … do you hear the fuhcking words coming outta your fuhcking mouth? I can talk to you any way I want, know why? Because you want this list bad and no one else got access to it but me so shut the fuck up and listen. You probably think slick ricks hang out in pizza parlors and pool halls, huh. Yeeaah you do, don’t ya? Yeah, thought so. And they all have greaseball hair and kiss shit before they kill it and shit, right? Yeaaah you’ve been watchin too much boob tube kid. Listen to me now: museums are hot. Think I’m a liar? Next time you find yourself in the Middle Paleolithic, the one with all the fossilized glass, say hi to a coupla Neanderthals for me, names Marco and Joey. Don’t forget to watch your wallet. On weekends they grift by the skeleton of the Humpback. Sometimes you can find em in the butterfly room lifting cabbage from old ladies’ purses, or else just generally fuckin delighted by all the fuckin butterflies. You’ve never been to the butterfly room? That’s fucked. This is fucked. The entire institution is utterly fucked, but this is utterly utterly fucked, and if they find out you have this list we’re both fucked. Once you pull up the hardwood and cut the kill-me-please jazz, places like the Smithsonian would make your skin crawl kid, believe me.”
I rent a way home
Shadowing the in-craft lights.
The city in a cape
Of November red.
I follow the sun around the house.
Greenhorned and peaked and revvying.
I’m at home, at a distance.
It’s taken a while
To give up on light-houses
But keep up with the ceremony.
Now we’ve got it figured out.
Wrap my antlers with Christmas lights
To make of me
Bowl in my hips.
I take my sister to a movie.
Ten dollars and some change.
Outside the theater we watch a balloon
Diffuse into sky
Next to the new moon
And it vanishes.
But I am reasonably sure
Somewhere it is gliding and
Dauntless. A blue babe.
The Nemesis Bird
The airplane thunders with my nemesis, the blue jay,
A stowaway bromia in the overhead bin.
What quirk in space, my phantasmagoric hen,
Caused you mid-flight to stylishly apparate,
Following me back from home, frightening the stewardess?
The nemesis bird is the scholarly term
For the amateur ornithogue’s ivory whale.
I couldn’t catch a glimpse of your sapphire crest,
Blue babe, in Milwaukee where I baited you with suet.
I waited on my porch; your warble haunted sunset.
How sad how you shuffle from junction to junction
You fluted from a breast of vermiculated glass.
I told you that drifters find home in transition
And that I’d appreciate a little less sass
From you- dare I say it- you glorified parakeet.
Back to the nightmare at 40,000 feet
I glimpse the blade of a blue-grey wing
Twaying a haphazard way into the cockpit.
The passengers are clutching the back of seats
In front of them. The airplane wavers. Will we make it?
So it is. The fuselage, destined to flame.
My jubilant death births a little sister sun.
And finally, suspended above the lake I reclaim
My estate in the fire and become undone.
I burn, and I burn. And my nighttime sunlight lifts
The curtain of twilight to render transparent
The ink in the midnight, feather-edging dusk,
The sun-and-moon sky
Painted with a soft brush.
As I fall into the lake it occurs to me
Perhaps I am stranded at the bottom a well
And the moon is the hospital-bright light slowly filtering
From the world above.
How soothing it would be
To watch a child let go of his balloon
And rise to the moon-door
In a strange reverse of gravity.
To him I’d like to ask:
Does the moon have a moon?
~ streetlights diffuse
the drench of the moon ~
The moon has a pulp
Now we’ve got it figured out
For ten dollars and some change
I took M to a movie
It would have been nice (mending the flowers
like my bees are said to do,
with honey glue they--- but I musn’t say more)
If a relative asked me about my plans
And right as wellwater I could’ve said
I am taking M to a movie
For something to be living
It must have the characteristics of
Appear like live, living things
Whereas non-living things
Have never been alive
Things like rocks
And air and sunlight.
When I grow up I want to be a satellite.
I look forward to the days when I’m happy enough
To wrap Christmas lights around my antlers
And say boring things like I feel at odds with the weather
And isn’t that nice? and I am fond
Cover the quivering cup behind the collar bone
In the park I think joggers know more than I do.
$10.76 buys me a pack of opposite-jogging.
There’s no hurry home is a fuselage in my chest.
I burn cigarettes underwater, one by one, scattering ash.
The sun follows me around the house.
By now the entire moonland of Wisconsin brings to mind
An empty movie theater parking lot.
I collect the naming of things
To carve into the birch bark
And find home in the list,
A personal inventory
Of the bottom of Lake Michigan:
Sunflowers glued to birch trees,
The sleep of an apple,
Suet for the blue jays,
Measuring cups in drawers
That remind me of my home in the past.
Each is nested wordlessly inside the last.
Inventory of the Bottom of Lake Michigan Cont. (on birch bark)
water, sand, rocks, fish, dead fish,
garbage, kelp, the floating head
of a decapitated chihuahua like a jellyfish.
important: in that order.
nothing beached, all tidal.
by the moon. allow me to elaborate.
consider the petrified driftwood vaguely
resembling one of the fifty states
in that far-out planetarian way,
a spiral staircase ten stories tall,
the empty of the moon, one hunk of suet,
a crumbling wellstone, one bronzed turret,
one hive (of two), a mason jar of honey glue,
a waterlogged headband (hers)
with plush reindeer antlers,
an ashen bit of grey fluff,
american spirits, my fuselage