Why the Earth Shakes by Joe Francis DOERR
A good friend of mine believes
the pre-Columbian gods
have broken their ranks of slumber
to bind again with rattlesnakes
the backbone of our continent.
They have removed the sainted masks
assigned to them by conquest,
dusted off obsidian blades,
and painted their priested clowns
for war with buffalo tail brushes.
He claims they’ve set Wyoming’s
medicine wheels in motion,
as the Mississippi bleeds, then
uprooted Mound City beneath the woodhenge sky.
The Piasa bird circles
over Illinois bean fields.
to border patrolmen with a switchblade and a smile.
The pale boulder which powdered
wild bones to grist for white bread
while Coyote’s powers slept
is rolling to an end, he says.
In his eyes, the wild children play on quiet stones.
A Handful of Dust
Long before Pound or Saarinen’s folly,
Even ere Harvard & Vivian Haigh-Wood,
Long before Thames, Little Gidding & Shantih;
But after the fall of the Mound Builders, stood
Eliot, thrashed by the prospect of ragtime,
Well above bean fields, sorghum & rye,
Squinting, for sun to the west had undone him—
The Mike Finks & mark-twains, the frontiersman’s sky.
While cobblestones rang near the river cathedral,
And Peabody Coalmen washed their black faces
In the jellyroll wake of the ‘Goldenrod,’
Tom had his moment w/ the Mississippi’s drawl:
Alone, but for woodhenge & the mounds like mesas,
He heard the voice in the wasted soil:
“Go,” it said.
Väinämöinen, old and steadfast,
Had not found the words he wanted...
Then the aged Väinämöinen
As a smith began to labor,
And began to work with iron.
Sibelius left concise instruction:
Ars Finlandia—remote, brooding, sad.
But Jefferson’s monument to expansion
demanded a wizard’s touch, it was said.
& the city fathers turned to Eero—
nursed on the straits of Bothnia but weaned
to American hucksters, who with grand,
shyster brags sought another Finn’s Sampo:
a little breakthrough on a sinking raft.
What beat dictated steel parabolas?
Curved his cones while Sibelius glowered?
Solstitial arcs of the sun about soft
cedar grain? The wound in the maker’s jazz?
A winged serpent droning from a potsherd?
I have made a heap of all that I could find...
I have lispingly put together this ... about past
transactions, [that this material] might not be
trodden under foot.
—Nennius, Historia Brittonum
Who is the god of this information?
A latter-day Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed,
He sits on his mound while Moloch Mahhovet
& Tauroctonas, both blazing w/ passion
Vie for his undivided attention—
While he fingers his beads & tears out his hair
Awaiting Rhiannon, his evening star,
To ride through his dreams in either direction.
Good God! Is that gateway the ship to Aeolus
Or wasteland, where Lilith the screech owl is Rex?
Piasa rumbles above w/ no answers—
Saarinen Väinämöinen, what did you sell us?
Grafted to symbols the steel rejects
The cornerstone pulled from the river.