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antiprose, or: Poetry Reclaimed From the Land of Abandoned Stories, by Jake Buckholz

Long Call pt. i

the ground gave way to marsh.
the foliage grew impenetrable by
sunlight and the putrid ground stank like decay.
Dank pools of water held the sour smell and
beckoned back to a world without intellect.
A cruel world of teeth and half-shaped forms,
life’s first attempts on a macro scale.
Things suited now only for dim rooms in museums
and nightmares.
Creatures in which the line between flesh and bone
had not yet been well defined.
Unbalanced life, untested against itself.
Cruel nature before it learned the grace of mammals and birds
or the beauty of tropical waters.
When the skies were too full of poison to allow wings
and the land was little more than molten rock,
incapable of sustaining more than lichen.

In those days, a swamp would be a hellish oasis,
a biker bar you didn’t want to be in, but there was no alternative.
Still, creatures kept crawling out, ignoring the pounding in their gills
when sludgy water gave way to thin air,
crawling against the pain of the rocks on their oozing bellies,
crawling and dying. Crawling and dying.
The explosion of life spilling over.
Crawling. Dying.
Out of the mean puddles.
Dead bodies giving nutrients to deader rock.
Slime of decay softening the hard earth, forming soil,
soil giving way to plants, until finally, the crawling
and dying out of the pond,
the fearful exodus from the death swamps
created a habitat something could exist in,
and slowly we have spread out from there.

Despair

Despair is a word meaning a lively depression.
Few are familiar with the state and
it is in especially rare form in America.
Squalor would be our closest condition,
but there is something rotten at the heart of squalor.
It is soft where it should be firm and hard where softness should be.
Despair is pure softness masquerading as hardness.
It is an egg going toe-to-toe with stones until it breaks.

Faking Nirvana in Alpine, TX

a series of mobile homes and decrepit bungalows. Broke down vans, undying Japanese sedans, and quasi-monster trucks.
A few dogs mingled in the street looking thin and mean.
meager mountains rose out of the desert,
giving up before becoming truly mountainous.

In the tiny kitchen, a coffee maker gurgled out some Folgers and from a laptop there played a compilation of
Siberian musicians.
Meditation, as listed on the sheet hanging on the fridge
under the public library magnet, was a part of her new daily
routine.
Also listed: eat plants, read, write, run.
the wadded up greasy bag from McDonalds was evidence that nothing is simple.
sitting alone in her two bedroom
She drank
until she didn’t feel
guilty about eating
meat, and then she
went to McDonalds.

Where then lay the fulfillment she longed for?

Out here in West Texas, fur like that doesn’t exist, but in her isolation she felt connected.
The isolation of a desert. The isolation of a tundra.
A lonely cactus. Some desperate lichen.

She thought of home and the friends who’d warned her against the move. You don’t
understand, she’d thought. But they had been right. And they were still together now, drinking watery beer and playing board games, while she faked at nirvana in Alpine, TX.


Bowl of Potatoes


My love came through the window with a bowl of potatoes.

“What are those?”

“Potatoes.”

“Oh,” I said, and took a short drink from the green bottle.

My lips suctioned around it and made a satisfying sound as I swilled. She set them down on my desk, next to my book, which I had laid down on its face after hearing her come in. Then she took her shirt off as she crossed the open space towards my bed. She crawled in and quickly fell asleep, leaving me alone with the bowl of potatoes.

I looked at them.
They did not look back,
but the lenticels bulged toward me
and I sat further back in my chair which creaked in strain.

She was, to me, in many ways, a stranger.
Her thoughts were written in hieroglyphics that neither of us could read.
Mine were locked away in a vault I didn’t have the key to,
so what was the difference?

I put the book down and picked up one of the potatoes. It hadn’t been washed. I could still feel dirt on it and some came off in my hand. Satisfied that it was just a potato, I set it back down. The bowl had eyes like a disco ball. Dead eyes shot out in all directions and saw nothing. I had a strong desire to go over to the window, open it back up, and throw these potatoes into the street. But they were a gift and gift-giving imbues objects with a strong, defensive magic that protects them from being thrown out by the receiver, even if they don’t want it, even if the giver would never find out.

Slowly, I sucked down another beer. I’d only been drinking them at the rate of one an hour, so I felt completely sober, but I felt very strange, though I couldn’t put my finger on why. I’d begun to feel it early in the day and it escalated as the day continued. By five pm, I was begging the sun to go down and the day to end. This was a feeling best suited for night. I wanted a beer. My tongue wanted a beer. My stomach wanted to swim in it. My ears wanted to hear the cap come off, but I refused myself one until the sun went down. I pretended it was some sort of zen practice.

Before crawling into bed, I moved the potatoes to the kitchen.
I set them by the knife block, near the microwave.
exhausted, I fell into the bed, rolled in behind my love,
cupped one of her bare breasts in my hand,
prayed to god it had not become a potato,
sighed with relief that it hadn’t, and fell asleep.


Imagine a Bar


Imagine a bar in which serious conversations over
the “shotgun blast meaning” of memes
more closely representing human thought than the written word
take place as afrocentric pro-Islamic 90s rap plays
to a room full of mostly white college students.

A fine smog of cigarette smoke would really tie the place together,
but, due to a new city ordinance, it is not allowed.

There is a tiny kitchen that serves the greasiest,
nastiest burgers to drunk vegetarians.
Over there, an argument
It is excited, but not heated.
They take turns speaking,
sometimes interjecting

(a tangent discussion over the difference
between interjections and interruptions takes place and
ends in agreement that interjections are a vital
part of human interaction and completely different from interruptions)

There are a number of paintings on the wall
as well as some framed photographs.
A regular at the bar becomes angry at the thought of
dissecting paintings.
What they aimed to create, if only they could perfectly
translate that small spark of creative energy itching
somewhere inside them into something tangible,
was a matryoshka doll of a painting.
One in which no matter where you looked,
you would see only smaller versions of the whole making up the whole,
like if each person’s dna, under a microscope,
was just a chain of that person smiling up at the huge eye.

“Do you know why I dropped out of art school?”
marks the beginning of many of their conversations.


dream i

    held the bottle loosely by the neck                                                He spun it a little and
allowed                     circles.

                                 We were parked in the shade provided by one of the modern monoliths,
a Trump hotel?                                      
                 high above the sandstone buildings
wrought iron                  separated

                                                             only the thin walls of the van encapsulated us.

      It stank.
All these white Americans
                                                The dude in the passenger seat was smoking a cigarette and hadn’t cracked the window enough for the smoke to escape.

It was warm and heavy in my belly out the window

And then the pills.

                Feeling the moment to be something akin to sacred,

he shrugged, said Bottoms up,

an overfilled vase.

stop entering my stomach
start pooling in my throat,

insides           too saturated with         stuff
my orifices           my seams        groaned.

through the back of the van                                                       Bright, hot air

A dark shirtless man with one arm                                                        
Remove your shoes! You tread on God’s ground now!
my boots paper mached with US currency.
                                                 Dozens died. The crowd of foreigners marched on
traces of ooze on me. I felt the Trump Tower
like the Eye of Sauron.

Grandpa Snake


Grandpa Snake down in his hole grooving to Thelonious Monk
It’s Spring! It’s Spring!
A snake has no arms and no legs, but would you say it can’t dance?
Not if you’d seen Grandpa Snake down in his hole, grooving to Thelonious Monk.
Then you’d say that arms and legs only get in the way of dancing.
Words only get in the way of loving.
Thoughts only get in the way of living, and that maybe,
just maybe a simple garter snake
could become the governor of the state of Texas after all.

One More


Deep into the back half of a six pack,
another episode of The Simpsons queuing up
pizza gut grumbling in protest of the liquid
Raining down from above, dark water dripping into a cave,
a buckling cave filling with pressure and heat and gas,
the ground above going all jello and bouncy.

Bart rounds the lamp post on his skateboard
and Maggie appears in the bag of groceries
the Simpsons gather on the couch
and the episode gets going
and he pops the top off a fresh beer and thinks vaguely one more.
Beer? Episode? Piece of pizza? Yes.

Long Call pt. II

The long call of the adult male orangutan
gets its name due to the length of the call
which can last from one to four minutes.
The sound begins in the throatpatch
as a set of low grumbles. The throatpatch
expands and the sound reverberates as it
builds into a series of bellows which
resonate in the cheekpads
and carry for up to two miles through dense vegetation,
and then it slows and deepens and slows and deepens further.

Males use it for several reasons,
usually at the end of the day,
and aimed in the direction they intend to travel in the morning.
It goes before them and warns any other males in the area that
they are coming while announcing the same
to any females who might be listening.

There is a hypothesis which states
that when orangutans ranged all the way into southern China,
they lived in troops the same as chimps,
or at least small family units like gorillas,
and now the males roam alone.
It implies that such aloneness has been forced upon them
and that perhaps these long bellows into the green void
are no such calls of bravado
but instead lonely cries of apes whose minds chatter with wordless thoughts,
aching for something, not knowing they ache for the company of others,
calling out, wanting to be heard:
I am here; I am woo oh wooh!eww! WOO! WOO! WOOee! WOOohe!
OH ooh...uuhhh….oohh…….uh woo...uuh…..uuuuohhwo.

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