OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 8
F. Daniel Rzicznek
Dear Celan: you are correct, art must be a childless being. The door is faux oak. The walls painted sky blue to refract the future. How long from your time to mine? History jumps a May puddle and we’re here. What has been happening happens again. I made a very long iTunes playlist—1,465 songs, roughly one hundred hours—and it just loves to toss up Dylan’s “Neighborhood Bully.” What we have done to ourselves: in the large red p on the side of a Petco, sparrows have built a nest, twittering now in a light but persistent rain. Why say the rain falls—does it ever go up? You’ve gone ahead to find out where the dead go but that door seals behind us all. A blade of light when my wife rises early to wash and dress before helping others begin to understand where breath rises to meet body and body goes loose like a flag left behind when the breeze dies. She kisses me and I wake to let the dogs out, give them food, water, dependable patterns. Later: cars lined up behind a silver hearse, ready to escort the newly dead. Mercy takes a thousand forms. Sometimes it does not know how to stop.
Giant dogs from the sky attack Canton, Ohio. There’s a dollar bill in my pocket and I swear I can feel it wriggling. The first warm week of March, flies filled the basement. We still don’t know whose corpse they emerged from. It really is true: no good deed can go unpunished. The old door on its overhead wheel runs off track and stupefies even my friend the handyman. Amanda and I pick out a black puppy with a white comet of fur on his chest and he becomes a mysterious saint. Happily, somehow, we are the people who come to spattered with sweat, unaware of some inhuman feat we’ve just achieved in sleep. A memo to the U.S. Postal Service: stamps should feature birds and nothing else. I would rather have my utilities turned off than buy Charlton Heston stamps. Turkeys, gulls, mergansers, juncos, auks, godwits, ravens. Who cleans the fogged mirror when no one is looking, the room empty? We pay the plumber and yet the pipes leak. This is your lesson for the day. I am wearing my university sanctioned athletic sweatpants. Rash of tenure and retention. Rash of capitalism. Time to invent another form of work that doesn’t exist.
Under the gaze of it now. Under the scarf and under the shirt. I know there must be more than my unhappiness. I have my support team: Amanda on her new exercise bike offers the widest smile I’ve ever seen; Bleu comes out of the rain and rolls on his back, pawing at the periwinkle towel like the pup he was eight years ago; Neil Young and Crazy Horse play Jimmy Reed at a nowhere bar and it travels twenty years into my living room speakers; Mari Sandoz yokes the last of the great buffalo herds to the atrocities at Wounded Knee and I know I cannot live in America yet I cannot leave America. Imagine the first corporation. Like a ship, it has brought us to where all things are doubly named and sold thrice—to the self, to the society, to the spirit. I want my rebate. I want my free cruise. I want my Wal-Mart gift card. I want my money back. Two to four buffoons can easily ruin a restaurant despite dozens of more mindful diners. Right around the new year I grow so tired of everything that my annoyance is nearly pleasurable. I spend the afternoons reading Ulysses, wishing all this rain were snow.
F. Daniel Rzicznek's books of poetry are Settlers (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), and he is coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His recent poems have appeared in West Branch, Colorado Review, Willow Springs, Terrain.org, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. He teaches
writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.