The poems in accelerant reflect a probing, inventive mind. As we read, we are taken on an extraordinary and powerful journey deep into our psyche. Yarrow infuses modern-day culture with unbounded grace and lyrical wit.
— Robert Vaughan, author of Funhouse
The Whole Debt
just as I was launching my life, extending the web of my friendships, adding magicians, librarians, architects, horticulturalists, house lawyers, horse lawyers, CIOs, videographers, EFL instructors, instructional designers...
just when the langoustines had me by the throat, when the side exits were all blocked, when the nacreous clouds began to move in, when the power grid was stretched to breaking, when the atrial gas main was poised for rupture, when the Mad River was rising, when the medallions of my palms were beginning to itch...
just when the air was loud with the sound of invisible mockery, when the world, paralyzed by littleness, was becoming dull, when all the birds headed for the bourbon hidden in the corn, when cheers of ill will resounded from the abandoned sawmill, when craven acolytes were craving ions...
just when the sky was dark with birds, the ground black with snakes, the river choked with otters, the mesa teeming with beetles, the mountains pocked with bees...
my stepparents slammed the door of the oven of the soufflé of death and the feisty yeast of conjured life began to rise.
Poet between Oxnard and Van Nuys
The butter of summer was melting onto
the toast of the town, a town which I had
visited only in dreams, dreams I had failed
to remember despite earnest attempts
to recall their evocative details, details
so reverberant they made the old men
outside the café sob with happiness
for their outmoded childhoods among
the tangled brambles and dry rivers
as they remembered soft rendezvous with lovers
long lost to futures unclouded by intrigue.
It was the summer of mutton, the summer of
jellyfish and jacaranda. The gypsy caterpillars,
had commandeered the lobby of the fortress.
One rolling hill reconsidered its profile
and decided to light out for fiery Iowa.
Sunlamps flashed off and on in a Morse code
of bitter inconsequence. Dilations of happy
mockery, indices of jocular boxes, tropes
of moroseness, modular degeneration and
fascist neuralgia – the preternatural detritus
of opulence leading to no end but one – optimism.
A universe of pearls, a multiverse of swine.
Cultivated fields of alternating texture.
There is no privilege in description, but neither
is there license in horizon. What of the solitary
bougainvillea—not in molly, not even in bloom.
But what harm can six beers do before noon?
What bad can happen in a stand of trees?
Who dare interrupt the symmetry of tilled
hills or planted vines? “It’s getting foggy,”
said the man beneath the incarnadine hat.
But the inviolet sun had other ideas.
To the music of fronds cascading from blonde trees,
the beach, decked in swim vestments, preoccupied
by scorpion waves, retreated from boxer crabs corralled
by rat-hair orphans wearing ill-fitting Jasper hats
and I thought, the only thing continuous is time.
How strange to look out at waves from a train. How
odd for sand dunes to roll past the eye. How otherworldly
to have train tracks parallel the dolphin road. Unsettling
to see the landscape ripple and crest and churn.
I had gone north looking for rescue. I found it sitting
in a rental train looking out at the passenger coast.
They were playing chess with body parts of children they had sacrificed to God.
The battalions of pawns were tiny teeth. The darting rooks were eyes. The frosty knights were hollow cheeks. The blushing bishops were ears. The Queen was a nose. The King was a tongue, upright but unsteady like a vertical snake.
Antoine was red, his soldiers bristling and bloody.
Emily had black, her men dark with decay.
Antoine went first and moved the tooth in front of his tongue one space forward. Emily moved her same tooth forward two squares.
Antoine took out his nose’s cheek. Emily nudged her tooth further forward.
Antoine matched her by moving out his other cheek. Emily considered his move and put her hand on her ear.
Antoine attempted the moves leading to Blake’s Mate, but as he went through those tired motions, Emily had moved out all of her black teeth, forming a moat of
absence between her front and rear lines, her nose proudly exposed.
Then Antoine played the Irresistible Tongue. Emily countered with the Insatiable Eye.
It was as if they were playing two different games or playing two different kinds of chess, one landed, one lunar.
I gave up my space in the front row and pushed out through the thronging crowd which howled or moaned at each succeeding move.
The hall was air conditioned and, as I was cold, this spurred the urge to empty my bladder.
“Who’s ahead in points?” I asked the bearded man in the urinal next to mine. “No pieces have yet been exchanged,” he said, zombielike, staring straight in front of him.
I zipped up and washed my hands.
I would have liked to have stayed, but having given up my seat and realizing there was no viable way back into the hall, I left, regretful but resigned.
I read in the next day’s paper that patriarchy, though threatened, had prevailed. Antoine had won, but, so shaken had he been when playing Emily, he ceded the championship title to her.
Emily thanked him but declined the offer. She refused to win the crown by forfeit and was applauded in the press for her integrity.
“Self righteous!!!” cried her fans.
“Self righteous!” cried her foes.
I was undecided. I could understand both reactions as I could see both aspects of the game, its divergent opponents and contradictory styles.
Ultimately though, it made no difference.
The government stepped in and, citing sanitation and health concerns, banned all games played with body parts
Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth Review, is the author of Against Prompts, The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks, most recently We All Saw It Coming. His work also appears in the anthologies Aeolian Harp, This is Poetry: The Midwest Poets, and Beginnings: How 14 Poets Got Their Start. He has been widely published in both national and international journals and has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize.
Copyright © 2019 Bill Yarrow
Cover photograph by Lauren Leja
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
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