Mudlark Flash No. 34 (2005)

Christien Gholson  |  The Sixth Sense

For Joe Strummer, Caetano Veloso, Bruce Cockburn,
Mercedes Sosa, Silvio Rodriguez, Gilberto Gil ...


Lee Jung-Soon,
a woman in Seoul who set herself on fire
to protest the police slaying of a dissident student

Song, as you have taught it, is not desire,
Not wooing any grace that can be achieved;
song is reality. Simple for a god.
But when can we be real? When does he pour

the earth, the stars, into us? ...

Sonnets to Orpheus
Rainer Maria Rilke

Poems   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13

Christien Gholson’s poems and stories have appeared in Hanging Loose, Blue Mesa Review, ACM, Alaska Quarterly Review, Lilliput Review, Big Bridge, The Sun, etc. A book of linked prose-poems is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2006. He lives in New Mexico.


Your voice. I want to hear
your voice. I have been singing

for years. Now, suddenly, I want
to learn how to sing.  To bring in 

the crows, the black laugh that almost
fills the hole; a back dock, pallets of boxes; 

finger to finger when a bus transfer 
is passed off to a complete stranger; sun and winter dust 

against glass, an opaque mirror; Indonesian prisons 
inside computers inside webs of economic-thought 

inside boxes on a dock. Can you hear it?  March snow, sparse, 
flying horizontal, because the crows have channeled the wind. 

Wake up! Someone has their hands on your throat.


A deep sea fish floats inside 
the well of the larynx, antennae 

illuminating ochre claw prints, raised arms, wind-
lions whispering into dancing skeletons, flowering 

erections, the soft dune of a woman’s thigh bleeding
horses, bulldozer tires curled into 

black-tailed snakes, depleted uranium shells 
scattered across a desert, tarsiers leaping a flood,

all painted onto a circle of wet flesh, distorted
by the reflection of resonating waves 

from the slow spiral of the anglerfish, waiting for someone
to imagine it. To sing it. To sing what is 

already there.


Men and women of The Commune 
chased into Pere Lachaise, lined against the wall 

and shot. Their songs dismantled 
by dredge-shovels cutting canals 

across France, Indonesia, Panama. Bodies
dumped into a mass grave.  The Berlin wall dismantled 

the same way Ford, Firestone & Shell dismantled 
the U.S. public transportation system. No song 

left but the song of the endless highway. A broken machete, 
a manila envelope, on the road’s shoulder. Severed ears 

can’t hear the few feathers still clinging 
to a bird skeleton tangled in fence-wire, flapping 

in the wind.  


What if the birds picked up and left 
during the night? And tomorrow found us 

with nothing but ourselves, nothing 
but running engines, nothing 

but a constant bass-line, nothing
but the same mind isolated behind glass, nothing

but the same mind isolated behind glass. What if 
the birds disappeared, went down 

to sing for our ancestors, whose ears 
haven’t heard anything but titanium slipping 

into a bottomless well for hundreds of years. Trapped.  
Would anyone realize? To open the mouth 

and begin.


Receive the kiss with an open mouth. The wind
does this every day. Breathe

the black smoke. She is burning. Lit  
herself on fire with gasoline 

imported from Venezuela. Her body, 
your body. The knife. Her body, 

your body. The sea. Her body, 
your body. The knot. Receive the kiss 

with an open mouth. Breathe in  
that horrible desire for freedom

scorching black the angels that always appear 
out of the smoke

to guide us into heaven.


A wind across the canyon takes 
your voice. You become 

wind through juniper, a flash 
on the horizon. Lightning

that pulls at the iris, pulls rolling thunder
from falling bombs (all the children gone deaf). A miner 

kept awake in his cell for five days, sinking 
into the aquifer of screams, percolating 

up from Sand Creek. Coyote dust 
on a straight road after the lightning. Throw

your guitar over the edge. Wait. Wait 
for your voice. After the lightning, a purple iris 

breaks through the earth.


Flag-rope against a frozen flagpole. The sting
of loneliness for what’s never done 

or seen. A rhythm 
bringing the black sun from beneath ice

into being. A rhythm 
to pull the beast from the sea. A rhythm

of cairns on the cliff’s edge
covered with snow. Wind-worn hands placing stones 

one on top of the other. A rhythm 
of black space between stones that begin

to sing. When the wind stops, 
black feathers 

beat the air.  


Men on the corner under streetlight, handing 
out the new testament; singing to 

the unnamed beyond the light. The unnamed 
crawl in and out of invisible doors behind 

the beautiful King James script. Unnamed boys 
strike poses, wait for the right car. They will sing 

any song you want. All the unnamed 
stars dip in and out of reality, refusing to call out

the true name of The End. Quick, 
hide under the bed. Was there 

a childhood song that kept 
the dark 

at arm’s length?


And the girls on TV, the girls 
in the contest, the girls

who want to be stars, singing 
the way they were taught to sing

by the ones who were taught to sing 
by the ones who feed the furnace 

that corrugates tin. Chickens 
scatter in the wake of a Humvee. Boys 

in the backseat hold AK-47’s. Hinge 
of a swinging door 

in the wind. The girls on TV, 
forgotten before they even open their mouths 

to sing. 


Junked cars on a plain. Time, 
strung with flags, ragged

from blowing sand. Empty shells
gleam gold in the sun. I can’t remember

if this is the beginning of the song 
or the end. I pick up a shell, blow 

across the dark mouth that once housed
the bullet. The woman, cursed 

to moan over the mouth of an empty bottle
left in the desert, rises 

from the scorched shell’s mouth. Bottles, shells,
a trail for someone 

to find their way.


The sway of sea-grass; the Venusian 
gesture of a praying mantis, turning

swollen eyes; snow become too heavy, 
sliding into the sky; sun through waves

resonating off rock; green lichen 
drawing circles on pelvic stone; a saxophone 

in the dark, behind a black gas station: Song 
like coal rubbed beneath the eyes 

to keep out the glare of fire 
reflected off steel. Everything 

is falling like water from the black mouth 
of a deer, lifting its head 

to listen.  


Running past burning cars. Two bodies, 
naked, dart 

dumpster to dumpster. Sonar 
from the forehead, searches

back alleys, broken windows.  Chorus 
of albacore somewhere out there, 

calling back. Revolution 
in a dream, seen from above,

through bomb bay doors. A looter pushes 
a piano through oily water. Mouth made 

from the center of a spinning 
flame. Two bodies, naked,

swim through.


Satellite’s orbit – a continual falling
in.  A line of light, thin 

as a tracer. We’re burning pieces 
of an old fence all night to keep warm.  

And the same satellite every hour, on the hour, 
above, seen through clouds 

of breath: Spirit 
incarnate. Everything

breathes. Words are breath 
and flesh. Orion at my feet, reflected 

in ice. High, painful 
notes (but still within reach). Singing

is the sixth sense.

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