Fallowed and Becalmed

(with acknowledgements to Billie Holiday & Abel Meeropol, Jim Morrison, and Devo)

1

This fallowed field frames our time:

the structure of our soil redefined

untilled until the flood we know will come.

 

Well-worked before the blight

we test its tilth in silent streets

quiescent public spaces, empty slips.

 

But the abandonment is shallow

only surface-bare, the ships and buildings

bleed, so thick they are with life and longing.

 

Still we shelter in our cabins, becalmed:

the flesh retreats to salty sallow bones

of sickness and regret. In desperation

 

we borrow the youth of our children’s lives,

secretly reverse our parents’ mortgage,

and pawn grandparents’ legacy for booze.

All to justify the past.

The bill is due.

 

2

Ironic elect-ronic comics co-mix on the air

virus protection severed at the head

logic circuits shorted-out with hairspray

spurring minions on to armed denial:

Open up! Damn the data! Full speed ahead!

Yo! Gallows crooners! Sing to the rafters!

Appeal for more applause as trapdoors drop!

 

We sail away to reap unfallowed shores,

to use the heated tide to raise all boats,

but though flood waters rise, there is no wind.

Lulled, we pull from dinghies, coxswain hoarse

reshouting orders never understood

masks cover both his ears but not his mouth

weak wet breath fogs face shields as we row

we squint to read the signing hands behind

propaganda podia performers

reality stars spew unreality

The Situation stalks the Situation Room

he’s been elected Captain of the World

the Ship of State is in his grip of doom

the lemming-rats escape into their tombs

sailors in shallows schoon into reefs

pursuing loyalty not buoyancy

they kiss the ring of commander-in-thief

setting canvas as the virus rips our hull

while body-bags of new Strange Fruit are hanged

from the pure white yardarms of Good Ship Hope,

its red double-crosses spawning tent-morgues.

Embalmed.    Becalmed.    Fallowed.

 

3

Horse Latitudes breed coarse platitudes

still-birthed currents tiny monsters.

Flail or fallow further, dance or drown:

legs furiously pump the volume

cranking up confinement music

break on through to cardio panic:

Keep it going! Keep it up!

Pant! Fetch! Roll over! Play dead!

Get spiritual-minded!

Don’t let yourself and others down!

Don’t fallow idle! Teach the children!

Spur your hobbies! Make more art!

Up and download! Stream and binge!

Zoom around your partner’s screen

forget to clear your history

schedule make-up sex, forget your makeup

sext your landlord by mistake

pandemic virtue-news is fake relief

relive, retrieve your life in full

pass-time all the time

pass time    times past    time’s up.

 

4

Now the fever fills the lungs and shallow

intubated breathing clings to life.

We cultivate, we culturate

evacuate occult blood from our bowels

as all around us human tallow drips

and draws the sea-salt sorrow from our eyes.

 

Ground-fog rises to lowering sea-clouds

the vampire-mist brighter than the slate-sky

as dawn-light splits the air from darkened hills

grey rainbows wet the backs of starving cows:

the morning comes, yet no one wakes.

We sleep.    Becalmed.    Fallowed.

 

5

These naked fields will in time be fecund.

Weeds that we call crops will intercede.

Though oceans we pretend to sail are beckoned

to hollows in the earth to salt the seed

the earth below, slow burning, will explode.

 

Our culture is at work at home

the culture of the loam

the tunnels of the worms

the nematodes of joy

the nodes of nitro-fixing germs

we till to live we live until

untilled    becalmed    we fallow.

 

How will the callow children of this night

begin to find their hallows of delight?