spahr-photo-1

 

By Juliana Spahr / Photo: Eric Plattner, DouglasKearneyPhoto

 

 

Began with a list.

A bird. Reed cormorant.

Added a fish and a monkey. Hingemouth. White throated monkey.

Added because.

Because the six dorsal and anal fins of the hingemouth and its two teeth too and also its

swim bladder like a lung, covered in alveoli.

Because the silvery wings, longish tail, and short head crest of the reed cormorant.

Because the white throated monkey, with its red belly and its white legs.

Added the phrase the principle of relation.

Because it was with the principle of relation that the Niger Delta came to habitat.

So the six dorsal and anal fins of the hingemouth and its two teeth too and also its swim

bladder like a lung, covered in alveoli, swam in the Niger Delta.

So the silvery wings, longish tail, and short head crest of the reed cormorant dived down

to considerable depths in the Delta and dove to feed, as it tends to do, in more shallow

water so as to bring slow-moving mormyrids and cichilds to the surface.

So the white throated monkey, with its red belly and its white legs, banging objects

against the ground, throwing sticks.

 

 

 

 

Then added another bird.

Eurasian spoonbill.

Added a crab and a fish.

Cleistostoma kuwaitense. Mudskipper.

Again added because.

Because the Eurasian spoonbill with its dark legs, occasionally grunting and trumpeting.

Because the cleistostoma kuwaitense builds a semi-permanent mud hood over the

entrance to its burrow.

Because the mudskipper digs a deep burrow where it hides during high tide, a polygonal

territory surrounded by dams, and defended against rivals, shared with digging crabs.

Added the phrase the principle of relation.

Because it was with the principle of relation that the Kuwait bay came to teem.

So the Eurasian spoonbill with its dark legs, grunting and trumpeting, sweeping the end

of its partly opened bill from side to side while wading through the shallow water of the

bay.

So the mudskipper built its burrow beneath the mudflats, and then defended its territory

and also kept a pool of water to allow it to engage in surface activity.

So the cleistostoma kuwaitense used the same mud of these mud flats to build a semi-

permanent mud hood.

 

 

 

 

Then another bird.

Pelican.

Added a mammal and a fish. Bottlenose dolphin. Red snapper.

Returned to because.

Because the gregarious pelican, travelling in flocks.

Because the memory and the comprehension of the bottle nose dolphin with its over

thirty distinguishable sounds.

Because the nibbling and the picking of the red snapper with its short, sharp needle-like

teeth.

Returned to principle of relation.

Because it was with the principle of relation that the Gulf of Mexico came to be

activated.

So the gregarious pelican hunted cooperatively, plunge diving from high up so as to stun

the fish before scooping them up, and bred colonially, in trees, bushes, in the ground,

around the gulf.

So the dolphins talking, talking in the gulf.

So the red snapper spreading itself out in the artificial reefs of oil platforms, the smaller

fish in the upper part of the water column while the larger in deeper areas.

 

 

 

 

I am waiting.

Said this out loud.

Said to no one in particular.

Said we are waiting.

Some of us are waiting.

Waiting for the assembly of fish.

Waiting to be complete.

Waiting to storm the waters. 

Also waiting for the assembly of trees.

Waiting to be complete.

Waiting to be infiltrating the land.

And waiting for the assembly of animals.

Waiting to be complete.

Waiting. Waiting. 

Waiting for the assembly of birds.

Waiting to be complete.

Waiting to fly the sky dark. 

Waiting for the impossible.

 

 

 

 

Said waiting, meant wanting.

 

 

 

 

Wanting to fly the sky dark.

Wanting to be complete.

Wanting the principle of relation.

Wanting for the six dorsal and anal fins of the hingemouth and its two teeth too and also

its swim bladder like a lung, covered in alveoli to be swimming near the red snapper,

there nibbling and picking with its short, sharp needle-like teeth. The bottlenosed dolphin

hunting beside them making squeaks and whistles, leaping from the water and slapping

its tail on the water’s surface. The reed cormorant diving down into the water, starting off

with a characteristic half-jump to give itself a more streamlined entry into the water and

the once under water propelling itself with its feet and sometimes with its wings. And at

the same time, the pelican diving down submerging completely below the surface

momentarily to snap up prey, then surfacing, water spilling from the throat pouch before

swallowing. The Eurasian spoonbill, head moving back and forth, bill in the shallow

waters of marshes, rivers, lakes, flooded areas and mangrove swamps, deltas, estuaries,

tidal creeks and coastal lagoons. The mudskipper in and out of the water, walking on land

too, near the cleistostoma kuwaitense builds a semi-permanent mud hood over the

entrance to its burrow inside this burrow. The white throated monkey, cheek pouches full

of food.

Wanting to be together.

Hingemouth and red snapper and bottlenosed dolphin and reed cormorant and pelican and

Eurasian spoonbill and mudskipper and cleistostoma kuwaitense.

Together making a fist.

Water in one hand. The right hand.

Sky in the other. The left hand.

Wanting to be coming to be possibility gathering. 

All these things.

The earth together. 

Together. Wanting become forests.

Together. Wanting become grasslands. 

With the unfeathered legged ostrich and the equal lengthed toed osprey and the pygmy

hippopotamus too.

Sandbanks. Swamps. Edges of the open forest. 

 

 

 

 

Was wanting, so began searching. Searched. Searched how to blow up an oil well.

Searched how to explode an oil well. How to set fire to oil well. Explosives. Oil well.

Plastique. Plastics. Kuwait. Gulf war. Cetacen mortality. Keira Knightley. Crystal spear

and sacred heart. What to do when someone is suicidal. How to make plastic from oil.

Young Lords. Benzene. Brussels protests see 100k clash with police. Christmas tree oil

well. This year at HM. Long Beach port shutdown. South Africa port strike.

Anthropocene nuclear. The Kumulipo mind. Gaining a starring role in Utility Industry

Deals. Foreign born residents 1970. What is the Zim Piraeus Carrying? Live ships map.

Tor. How to post anonymously. Mask of Anarchy. Aba women. Berber spring. The

Kabyle riots. Anal itching. Wanted to write all the things that I touched in one day that

were created only because the benzene molecule was isolated. Did not have enough paper

to do this. Wanted to explain in metaphor the oscillations of the price of oil. The Brent

Crude Spot Price, designed to undercut OPEC, eventually leaking onto the spot market

and so the free market of Brent became the price-setter or benchmark for certain sorts of

oil. Eventually to introduce transparency to the forward market, while still leaving price

control to Shell, the 15-day Brent was formalized. This let traders squeeze the market. As

the Dated Brent was sold to refiners, the price of 15-day Brent rose because there was

less on the market. Wanted to describe all the shipping routes. By pipeline through to

Banias in Syria, Tripoli, Ceyham in Turkey. Through the Neutral Zone to the terminals at

Mena Saud and Ras Al Khafji. Through Umm Said. Through Das Island and Jebel dhana.

From Bonny, Forcados, Pennington, Qua Iboe, Brass River, and Escravos. Balikpapan,

Ardjum, Balongin, and Cinta, and Dumai. Wanted to tell as a storyteller might tell how

the women went to gather the blood cockles. They planned to sell them. It was holidays.

And holidays were the time to gather the blood cockles and then to sell them and then use

the money to buy books. But the blood cockles were oil covered. The women were there.

The white throated monkey was with them, lively and playful. The women went back to

their homes, angry. So the next day, the women and other sorts of caregivers, went back,

seized a boat, divided into groups, occupied the airstrip, the helicopter pad, the oil storage

area, and the docks. Then all day and night song and dance ridicule, chanting of

threatening songs, attacking of stores and prisons, knocking down of telephone poles and

severing of wires. From 400 one day to 4,000 the next. Wearing palm leaves. They were

to have been gathering. Slowly at first. One at a time. One location at a time. And then

gathering more. Gathering like the white throated monkey, five or six at the beginnings,

then more gathering up to thirty, but not stopping then, gathering like the silt too.

 

//

 

NWCC.no regularly asks poets both in Scandinavia and internationally to contribute to our literary climate campaign. Juliana Spahr, a leading author within the eco-critical tradition of poetry, and translated into several Scandinavian languages, immediately said yes. We are proud to bring her extensive poem Blood cockles.

Quote from the Academy of American Poets: «About Spahr’s work, the poet Anne Waldman has said, “By listing, by naming, the atrocities—the harrowing stats, the scary particulars—in our world-at-endless-war, we might at least exert control over our sanity and extend our mind and compassion to others. It is a connected universe as Spahr so forcefully reminds us.”

Literature is the missing link between the natural sciences and the politicians, the very language of changing forces in civil society.

Juliana Spahr , we thank you for the new poem!