the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Richard Pearse

(for Hans Arp)

A two-ton gross of women, a freighter's lading of men, can't begin
to delight me as much as this shitload of air. Too late for any elegy,
but in the ice of my bald head a stillness is born, flaps its feelers.
Like all the Cadillacs now defunct in their grave armor, time's going
to be a jagged skyline of long-distance runners.

Time used to be a flat earthquake of short-winded pigs. Like all
the snails now iridescent in brave nudity, a roaring impends, flips
its rudder. But in the flames of my long tresses, there's time for an
elegy. A hurricane of eels, a long dream of snow, can't finish off my
total disgust as finally as this rosy bouquet of ash.


Let the Clouds Run Wild in Their Parachutes!
(for Hans Arp)

Clouds pretend to be our kidneys. Too bad for us. Clouds dream of pole-vaulting
underground. Clouds are the eyebrows of our prisons. On the clouds that take
over for our brains, vultures' beaks are growing. Shame on them. A cloud's heart
rues the static it overhears, goes back to Bach.

Clouds dote on our babies. Clouds are stones with bad memories; before their
birth they conquered our third eyes. Their tough luck. When clouds puff away at
each other, our ears hide beneath their breath, we can't see the bells ring the

When a cloud surrounds a theorem, its artificial heart explodes. Clouds hidden in
our heels tickle the plastic stars. Clouds sag, age, limp around on stars. The first
cloud exhaled our roots. The last cloud will spit out our hair—talk about a bad

Once they're born from sledgehammers, clouds can't find a landing field, so their
years tickle each other. That's our fault. Sometimes clouds are our feet. Other
times they swallow our penthouses—why didn't we take better care!

Cloudy teeth over the heads of our women are grinning from centuries of
fingernails. Out of a perverted cloud, our tongues are stumbling, stuttering.

Our skin, toes, bones—they're all clouds now. Too bad. Better luck next time.


Slammed Down by Stardust
(for Hans Arp)

Your brain is no good to think with. Never mind your three doctorates.
When you're faced with a Categorical Imperative, it's better to use your
umbilical cord than that back-issue brain. Try thinking with your toes.

While I'm spitting out my brain, the sun's spitting out the earth. Some-
Where between midnight and the Arctic, a logician arrests a marigold
for attempting to caress my mother's bones—Ha! Gotcha!

Granted, your brain is okay at tearing down the house you were born in
and re-assembling it as a fighter jet. Or puffing away on a tuba of tar. Or
drowning whole Mojaves with their cactus arms flailing. Or flying around,
calculating how best to untie the equator.

My owl in its iron headband can outthink your soprano worm and still
keep digging under the starry stones, growling its songs to the tides.

But yes, your brain is best at sprouting out the top of your head, its
knuckles twisting through your hair, desperate to get to that point where
the crack in the ceiling could use a little plaster and paint.



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