Beijing is now the modern equivalent of Victorian London, whose famous “fog” was actually smog caused by coal dust... — National Post
Whither Peking? the Englishman wonders as he wanders the capital, mutton-chopped, topcoat pulled tight. Baffled, he dodges celestials pedaling machines through masses of particulate matter settled over the city like tea leaves at the bottom of a country squire's porcelain cup. Trollope doesn't read Chinese, but he knows this smoke, this sooty twilight pumped in, day and night, from provincial factories faster than any Manchester magnate could have imagined. It's China's century. Brush the coal dust off the Fruits of Industry and consume! The people have changed, but it's the same revolution accelerated. Capital spit out in triple time clouds forecasts. Fair or foul, Trollope keeps his umbrella close. He knows money makes it own weather.
The gift horses, wish horses, horses you can lead to water but can’t make drink have all left the barn, disappeared down in mouths, abandoned wells we still remind each other not to look into. No one remembers what tenterhooks are even when one is on them. Out on vanished limbs, vestigial as cows that won’t come home again, as country miles crows no longer fly. We still want our sleep tight but have forgotten the beds of rope pulled taut inside houses divided and fallen. All that’s left are the keys. Drop them in the bucket and keep on going.
Someplace in the city, there is a large wild animal. A large wild animal who’s biting people. (Anonymous caller to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, CNN)
How far you traveled from the forests of night, from the hushed recesses of a library in Buenos Aires. Untangled from strands of mangrove, released from verse and stanza. More corporeal than Blake or Borges imagined. Rivers of piss seep through project floors, your scent persistent as need. Neighbors saw raw meat in the mauled arms of a quiet young man down the hall who called you “brother, best friend, only friend, really,” but could not imagine past apartment walls, strained and cracked, as you expanded beyond abstraction, a mad idea made real, too magnificent to grasp.
And sparks flew upward, shed from Heaven’s voltaic arc when women brushed their hair a hundred strokes each night by whale oil light’s mammalian warmth, by gas lamps they learned not to blow out like candles. By incandescents, filaments fine as broken insect limbs, seeds rattling under earth shaped glass, echoes of the sunworked: tuber, corm. Soon to be bulbs in name only. Heat spent, radiance ebbs, spheres lengthen into snakes, coiled up, compact stars implode, coldblooded.
Kryssa Schemmerling is a poet and filmmaker. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 2River View, Big City Lit, Poecology, and The Same. And her most recently completed film project is a feature-length documentary about surfing in Rockaway Beach, Queens, entitled Our Hawaii. Kryssa lives in Brooklyn.