8-3 poem

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A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

8.3 (Summer 2008)




Summer Storm

Battle royal for a continent’s reign,

A hemisphere’s temporary right-of-way.

Since dawn their lines had massed,

Man-o-war cloudbanks in tight convoy

(Red-sky-at-morning hoisted in warning

At the breakfast room’s bay window).

Dawn’s pendant soon recalled,

Only blueblack mainsails and to’gallants

(Fluffy white topsails furled overnight

With lashings of gagged and throttled clichés)

Billow out now in bruising bulges,

Bellying low and broad, spar to spar,

Bowsprit to gallery, bunched battle order.

West against North.  Blue versus Black.

Distant rumble of beat to quarters,

Less distant trundle and thump of gun trucks,

Carriages snugged flush up to timbers,

Muzzles protruding cold black maws.


First shots measuring enemy’s range,

Hoping for a lucky punch at a mast.

Not much damage during the scrimmage

(Discounting battened birds outside, hushed voices

Within, and the cat in a corner cringing).

Bellowing sheets carry into collision,

Wreckage and all.  As a barrel draws brush trailers

On its bullying downhill rampage, so these lines

Cannot now run askew or asunder,

But only merge into one sooty porridge.

The first broadsides spit, crack, and flame,

Blanching our slack faces behind the window.

The crystalline trim of our ocean-bottom grotto

Rattles and rings around our sunken shoulders.

Smoke rolls muscles, strikes sparks from flint-gray spray.

Flashing cascades wash and singe the fishes

As rudders thrash, masts fall, and grappled bows grind.

Load and explode.  Ragged rapid fire,

The jet and sizzle of hot white ignition

Sometimes killing before the explosion.

The digital kitchen clock shrieks and dies,

Taking a lamp’s electric soul with it

(And leaving the inner den black as a cavern).

We huddle in mud and cockleshells

At the far end of the kitchen table,

Not counting volleys, not trusting pauses

Between them, not feeling anywhere for a seam—

Just ducking breathless under the tidal swell

As stars fizz and chaos retches

In one expanding Big Bang bubble.


At last the vanguard has fanned and scattered.

Flagships still thump powder beyond the roofline,

But not in our window.  Blueblack flotsam

Floats heavily in a kneaded soup

As blue hulls and black keels

Stir its lumps in massive passage.

Spars and cordage litter our depth

(Limbs in the yard, a power line down)

And the tall kelp beds growing about our grotto

Stare like lunatics from wildly disheveled hair.

The mockingbird’s nest has settled into the sandbox.

Who knows who won?  Flags are in tatters.

The ocean heaves a deep swell, and swallows.

The planet’s rotation has purged its friction

For a few more days of raking the atmosphere.

An azure smile stripes the far northwest.


                    Alan McGinnis