Alluvial Cities by Christopher M. Hannan

By Christopher M. Hannan

The poems in Alluvial towns are drawn from this layered landscape's geology and heritage, its humans and language, and the kindred ties among earth and water, flesh and blood.

DEUCALIONIDS
The waters broke from the void earlier than first light,
a divinity ripping throughout the trembling flesh
of marshes and the levees’ outdated clay thighs,
protecting each mile of St. Bernard Parish.
 
homes with their cement slabs have floated
mild because the rinds of watermelons you ate as a boy
and chucked into Lake Catherine, swelled to overflowing
via the god that surged into the Rigolets estuary
 
and left an afterbirth of candy crude leaked
from foundered tanks.  autos dangle like carrion
birds at the optimum branches and torn roofs.  Leached
of dust and flood waters, the homes we go cry out
 
damaged window panes, duct-taped refrigerators, and a stillness
that leaves us at the lifeless grass of this
woman’s domestic, like such a lot of thrown bones.

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Their timbered hearts both wanted just one day to feel the flesh that blossomed in the Tree. Trunks can grow from lovers’ chests, branch out into their veins; roots take hold below the limbs in the soil where man was made: like Philemon and Baucis intertwined, whose love made Zeus turn them to oak and lime. Those two grew ripe on moldy earth, fermented in their veins; bruised and spoiled, skin shriveled up, their limbs doomed to ruin. They would have entered earth and turned to mud, but their flesh was overgrown by love’s heartwood.

The blaze crackles as tongues probe the black sky like trochees metering the night’s syntax. Our tinder— branches, cones, fascicles of loblolly pines— kindled these flames igniting the eigengrau dark, where sparks explode in iambic bursts, burning bright as the synaptic flickers of nebulae, when the medulla of blackjack oak and maple split with heated sap. These logs, metonyms for bones burned in our ancestors’ fires, make us stare at dying coals giving life to this reaction between carbon, oxygen and a breath of heat, illuminating our small sphere, until there remains only charcoal, ash, the glowing cinders, these sundog syllables.

For now, the fish roasts in this cosmogony of basic ingredients, creating the central course for the altar from the raw and lifeless forms of fin and tail as heat, simple flavors, and their tided essences merge in the inherited tabernacle of the oven. TEACHING MY WIFE TO PEEL GARLIC***** These toes are the print of the Devil’s left foot, sprouted where cloven soles fell on the earth outside Eden’s gates. The scarred mud gave root to these curious softneck heads, the first herb she helps me peel tonight to sauté in oil and butter.

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