Today's poem is by George Kalamaras

The Mining Camps of the Mouth

He spoke with words that had been held before in the
mouths of the dead. Words like wistful and wildfire.
In the mining camps of the Medicine Bow all healing
hurts. Once, when I was young, I was dead, said the
man about to be my life. The mouth moistens hard as
glands gone sad. At least in Hygiene in high-country
summer. Where the consumptive come to coax the
air. All going comes to Colorado. All coming leaves
desire decried. There is no paradox up high when one
stinks of the inner depths. Despair is overrated, I heard
slantwise through the throat of the many-soaked. Why
it rhymes with "repair" is one of the Seven Wonders of the
. One of my many pasts had finally caught up
with me. Reed-bound, mummified. It spoke, she spoke,
he smoked in a barrel of water his last severe brand.
Against the leaning shed, where calves moaned no, they
stacked the hot iron, sizzling with names. Not names
but pictographs. Not graphs but hieroglyphs from
deep within the ranch: The Oxbow; The Circle Shade;
The West-of-Dodge
. Honestly, I read one word at a time,
one line of burnt hide. Note : instructions for how to
be alive : draw each brand, with precision, before your
cowboy license is revoked. Note : instructions for how to
be dead : be dead. What burns into us our saddle-
tramp name is new leather creaking old. Ore bags slung
over the rump of a mule. Poor things are sterile, you
know. Like any offspring of a donkey and a cottonwood.
Get yourself a horse. Lead it to water. Make it stink. You
try sitting unshaven for twenty-three days on the cattle
drive from Abilene to Dodge and see if your creaking
groin is leather or gold. I spoke with words that had
been held before in her sexual folds. Words like pink
and moist. Words like swollen and obsessed. In the mining
camps of my mouth, I kept bending over a pan of her
purest gold. Leaping up into me like wildfire. Even at
high altitude columbine grow. The lung is an amazing
organ. An origami crane in the chest. We need new
names just to breathe. Names of destruction and love.
Names that wing us into the ever-hopeful West. Names
that send our unexamined stool samples to Hygiene. To
correct our tubercular tense—past, present, and nerves.
Names that are ranch-hand sad. There are, of course,
Seven Wonders of both the Ancient and Modern
Worlds, There's the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, of
course. Chronicled by Callimachus of Cyrene. Which
sounds remarkably like Kalamaras of Serene. The
serenity, of course, of burying a burro on the high-
country pass. Something tender and dear and sad is
always carrying us up and over ourselves, into the time
of no crime and many soothing sheep. Not names, but
hands. Not hands, but a new kind of ranch: The I've-
Been-a Jerk; The Oh-I'm-Sorry; The Will-I-Ever-Find?

Honestly, I bled one word at a time. Note : instructions
for how to love : it spoke, she spoke, he spoke. Note :
instructions for how to be alive : be alive, coax the folds
of your tongue, the words that had been before in the
mouths of the dead.

Copyright © 2012 George Kalamaras All rights reserved
from The Mining Camps of the Mouth
New Michigan Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

Support Verse Daily
Sponsor Verse Daily!

Home    Archives   Web Weekly Features    About Verse Daily   FAQs  Submit to Verse Daily   Follow Verse Daily on Twitter

Copyright © 2002-2012 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved