Fallowed and Becalmed

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

 

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.

 

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 escaping to 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.

 

Horse Latitudes breed coarse platitudes,

still-birthed currents tiny monsters:

we must flail or fallow further,

dance or drown,

legs furiously pump the volume

cranking up confinement music

we break on through to cardio panic:

Keep it going!

Keep it up!

Now 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!

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

relive relieve your life in full

pass-time all the time

pass time

times past

time’s up!

 

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 is brighter than the slate

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.

 

These naked fields will in time be fecund.

Weeds that we call crops will intercede.

Though oceans we pretend to sail are beckoned

to the hollows of the land 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?