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Authors: Tom Sleigh

Station Zed

BOOK: Station Zed
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into reactions of horizon-shrouding dust whipped by the hot winds of contingency.

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Books by Tom Sleigh


Station Zed

Army Cats

Space Walk

Bula Matari/Smasher of Rocks
(Limited Edition)

Far Side of the Earth

The Dreamhouse

The Chain


After One


Interview with a Ghost


Herakles by Euripides



Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2015 by Tom Sleigh

This publication is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota. Significant support has also been provided by Target, the McKnight Foundation,, and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. To these organizations and individuals we offer our heartfelt thanks.

Published by Graywolf Press

250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States of America

ISBN 978-1-55597-698-9

Ebook ISBN 978-1-55597-900-3

2  4  6  8  9  7  5  3  1

First Graywolf Printing, 2015

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014948532

Cover design: Kyle G. Hunter

Cover photo: TJ Blackwell,
Sulaymaniyah City Limits, Iraq
. Used with the permission of Getty Images.

For Sarah



Homage to Mary Hamilton

A Short History of Communism and the Enigma of Surplus Value

The Parallel Cathedral

Songs for the Cold War

The Craze


“Let Thanks Be Given to the Raven as Is Its Due”

The Animals in the Zoo Don’t Seem Worried

The Twins


Homage to Zidane

Refugee Camp





Homage to Bashō


Homage to Vallejo

Global Warming Fugue

From the Ass’s Mouth: A Theory of the Leisure Class


The Negative

Party at Marquis de Sade’s Place



Proof of Poetry

Dogcat Soul

Prayer for Recovery

Second Sight

Songs for the End of the World


Let the smells of mint go heady and defenceless

Like inmates liberated in that yard.

Like the disregarded ones we turned against

Because we’d failed them by our disregard.

Seamus Heaney, “Mint”

Homage to Mary Hamilton

I’m driving past discarded tires,

the all night carwash dreams

near Green-Wood Cemetery where

the otherworld of Queens

puts out trash—trash of Murder, Inc.,

trash of heartbeat

in recycled newspapers where

Romeo and Juliet meet.

So much thorny underbrush,

so much ice overgrowing

my windshield until frost shields a buck

behind a billboard forest

selling someone’s half-dressed daughter.

She melts into the defroster

roaring like the rich guys’ helicopters

at the Wall Street heliport,

rotoring down through skyscrapers

where torchsong lipstick smears

onto a handkerchief and starched collar.

But in my face snow blizzards

up from sixteen-wheelers and

three crows clot against limbs

downswooping, omen of the augurs

that steers the desperate lovers

to a crossroads, right here. And where mobsters

and suicides lie buried

and the radio breaks into a ballad

of Mary Hamilton’s fair body,

but who’s tied it in her apron

and thrown it in the sea,

I’m the quake and shortlived quiver,

the laughter and fractured tale

of her night in the laigh cellar

with the hichest Stewart of a’.

Oh, she’s washed the Queen’s feet

and gently laid her down

but a’ the thanks she’s gotten this night’s

to be hanged in Edinbro’ town.

I’m sitting behind the wheel

of our mutual desire

when the heel comes off her shoe

on the Parliament stair

and lang or she cam down again

she was condemned to dee:

but the instant the news comes on

and drones spy down

on our compulsions, her hands

under my hands wrestle

on the wheel as my foot taps

the brakes, her foot the gas

when out of the gliding dark

I spot his velvet rack.

Last night there were four Toms,

today they’ll be but three:

there was Tom Fool, Sweet Tooth Tom,

Tom the Bomb, and me.

A Short History of Communism and the Enigma of Surplus Value

My grandfather on his Allis Chalmers WC tractor, a natural Communist

who hated Communism, is an example of Marx’s proletariat,

though nothing near in his own mind what Marx meant by the masses—

musing in his messianic beard, Marx intuited the enigma

of surplus value that my grandfather understood

from a cutter bar and threshing drum driving into the future

as the combine harvester, thus increasing the bushels

he could harvest each hour, thus increasing his hourly productivity

for each minute expended of muscle foot pound power—

but Marx didn’t foresee, exactly, that the tractor

would develop into a techno Taj Majal, complete

with safety glass cab, filtered AC, a surround sound system

that could rival Carnegie Hall or blast Led Zeppelin

at decibels that left your ears dazed, easily drowning out

the invincible tractor’s roar—and the hydraulics, so swift

you could lift the discs with a touch—and all this,

in the old man’s mind, contrasting with the tractor

he put me on to learn, a four stroke with a crank you had to turn,

cursing and turning until it shook itself and shook itself

like a drunk with the DTs, until clearing the mystification

of its hallucinated roles, the tractor refused to sing the song

of its own reification and hiccuped and lurched into the real.

I’d climb onto the iron seat with a threadbare pad

that made my ass sweat, a jug of iced tea wrapped in burlap,

a bandana knotted to keep dust out of my mouth, goggles

snapped onto my face like an ideologue’s dream so that I saw

the fields foursquare as I contour-plowed acre after acre

unfolding before me with such dialectical rigor

that the ground of being would hold still forever, never blowing

into reactions of horizon-shrouding dust whipped by the hot winds of contingency.

Such a theory Marx made to argue the enigma into sense—

and not just for himself but for the eponymous masses!

But my grandfather’s big nose and wary drinker’s eyes keep breaking through

the mask and posing an alternative enigma: what if his surplus value

led him not to solidarity with the worker but made him into a Kulak

who must be killed? So the locomotive pulls out

of the Finland Station, so the colors red and white

make uniforms for themselves: Lenin. Trotsky.

Moth-eaten Czar Nicholas. Technicolor Rasputin.

The ones who stood in front of Kresty Prison

for three hundred hours. But the colors saw them coming—

and wore the ones who wore them to rags.

But fast forward a hundred years, my grandfather dead for fifty,

and there, in a window on Fifth Avenue, the enigma

hides itself in the headless, sexless torso of a mannequin

as a fly lands on its finger, the window shattering

to a thousand windows in the lenses of its eyes.

And all the while the enigma, like the embalmed body of Lenin,

keeps on breathing through his waxworks face.

The Parallel Cathedral
BOOK: Station Zed
5.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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