The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
8.3 (Summer 2008)
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.