Micah Bateman

Roads

Through things the wind knows things

The things will never know.

 

A mother packs her child into a trunk

And drives toward a line. As the car moves, so the line.

 

A family is two points on a grid

And the vehicle between them.

Approach is husband to event.

 

It is 105 degrees    her windows are down    patrols are patrolling

The day shimmies in the heat    the wind through the windows

The car and the highway    approach as a demon’s heart

 

Through trees the wind knows leaves

And teaches us its wind, the trees we know and then again.

 

A mother packs a child into a trunk

And leaves toward a line. Neither the li ne moves nor the child.

Everything moves between them. The trees shimmy like a lake.

 

Pack your life into two suitcases,

Pack your suitcases into three trunks,

Drive four ways.

 

The traveler can always be one traveler.

Move in one place. Watch the line.

 

C’est la guerre. That’s the dance. C’est la guerre.

The air moves everywhere—

 

C’est la poesie. C’est la guerre.

Not the trunk.

 

The Pantomime's Dilemma 

To know a space

As would a sculptor’s hands.

To carve out heels

In the glacial white.

In the interstices,

To wait all day.

Day and day.

World an orb

For your seeing.

Or to have a lamp,

Or a blanket

With electrical currents

In the underwire,

Industrial strength.

Interstices slight,

Breath only snow

And a bit of wind advisory.

Not to move

A solitary muscle.

Not to have to:

The sedentary wiser

Than the wisest warriors

In every conceivable culture

Except the worshipful.

By morning

For the street to bleed

Its voices––

To be counted as

Its fatal wound.

Outside or in,

Two sides of a window,

Park or city,

Towers or taiga.

Ice-mortared moss,

Subtle layer of lichens.

The sartorial needles

Of the jack-pine––

To be stitched up,

Affixed to the margins

Of fabulous vistas,

Blood thawing

The casement that before

Crystals weighted

In the absence

Of fire or breath.

For the milk to freeze.

For the fantasy to dry.

Or the sinews of the moose

To grow too cold

To be torn, slathered.

Every step in the margins,

One toward disaster.

With a trip east,

To lose the next two hours––

Metaphysical discrepancy,

Neither cold times

Nor times made cold by elegy.

For this to be wood

And this frozen lake,

The distance between which––

What? Iron kettle,

Scavenged tinder,

Nameless combustible hydrocarbon,

Blanket, match, hide.

Given a bag of rice,

To live in seclusion all winter long.

Dilapidated bus,

Middle of the forest,

Waist tapered to concision’s

Breaking point, to hallucinate

Both land and air:

Foxes, weasels, owls, eagles,

Grouse, crossbills in the needles,

Flittings of footsteps,

The sound of ash on paper,

Marches of footsteps:

Bipeds, quadrupeds, winged beasts,

Fleeting meat, but with

A spirit animal on the loose,

Which one to eat?

For the trees to shimmy

More snowfall for your eaves.

In the spring for certain

Things to return.

 

Material Pleasures

For the betterment

Of the child’s first summer noon,

Toss the lake a boat.

Watch the notes of sunlight scatter off.

 

Water’s livelier

Radiating like tailwind

Off the plane’s rear end

As speeding passengers pass the slower clouds

 

Shrouding wind-lisped pines

Where blackbirds perch and scatter––

A thought dissipates

Though the nomenclature’s wrong, but it feels

 

Natural, feeling

This way on a lark, feeling

Beautiful or dumb.

The page keeps dimpling underneath the thumb

 

Of a stranger––thumb

Preposterously spreading...

I keep forgetting

How the body paints itself on surfaces

 

Abstract, surfaces

Incongruent generally

With the ways of things.

The blackbirds’ wings like letters on the page

 

Can’t make fly the page.

My fancy overwhelms me.

No one reads today.

The mind remains as blank as static lakes

 

On whose surface, boats

Are tossed like grapes on a corpse.

Concentric, the rings’

Divine ratio in the pattern of a song unknown

 

To most men, but known

Now to the mother waving

From the tin-white beach

Who spreads her blanket just beyond her reach,

 

Whose child’s eyes can’t reach

Very far, so his world blurs.

The blanket softens

A ground which must seem false to stay so still.

 

Ascent

I’m going for a silo climb

I’m going for a mountain climb

I’m climbing park trees

Forest trees

Cacti tips

I’m climbing the stock exchange

Like a Sherpa

With a death wish

I’m climbing to the zenith

Of man-made mobility

In place of parachutes

Parasols I’m climbing

My grandmother’s ascent

Into an unknown universe

I’m bringing her favorite

Cake I’m climbing

The cake to the candle’s flame

I’m so flamboyant

Look at me up there

I’m climbing to the Hubble’s

Utmost vision I’m climbing

My range of vision

To where it fades

In the smoggy horizon

I am the horizon’s horizon

I’m climbing the endless ladder

To where there is no horizon

Look at me up there

Wobbling like a fool

I’m smiling for the camera

I’m smiling for the telescope

I’m smiling at the graspable moon

I’m climbing for you

I’m coming for you

Look at me up there

I look a lot like you

As seen from a great distance

 

The Ecologist

Listen. The birds

Never change us.

All these odes

Just make us older.

I feel something

Underneath me

But it’s only

The earthquake

In Burma

In Japan

In Haiti

Where the earth

Shrugs off structures

Like snow

From a shoulder.

The birds look

Puzzled at our puzzlement.

They rook us

With their ease of flight.

Mud slides

Like our feet

Out from under us.

Birds dive likewise

To the water.

Listen. Dumb

Creatures defeat us,

Yes. But their songs

Entreat us:

Throw bread,

Throw bread,

What little

You have left.

Or maybe it’s

Another music

Entirely. The sky

Is lousy with them.

 

MICAH BATEMAN is a poet living in Iowa City, Iowa, where he works and teaches for the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. He received the 2013 Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and his poems are anthologized in Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance PoeticsNew Poetry from the Midwest, and The Poet's Quest for God. He edits petripress.org and co-curates the Cyborg Support Group reading series in Iowa City.