Mark Scroggins

Mark Scroggins Photo: Zach Barocas

from ZION OFFRAMP

67.

That thing you forgot to do last year
has turned out to be important. The little noise
under the hood that irritated you so much
at first, until you got to where you ignored it,
has turned out to be a symptom of something big,
expensive. That mole on your back. Catch in your throat.
Bill you accidentally threw away, bank statement
you misplaced. I found your phone number,
I’m embarrassed to say, stuck as a bookmark
between pages 42 and 43 of a book
I gave up reading four years ago. I’m texting
you now. There’s a clown show on TV
every afternoon, a remote read-through of ’Tis Pity
She’s a Whore. All my friends are sharing
pictures of their children, their meals.
Someone says invisible rays are stoking
the plague. Someone else tells me the windmills
are feeding my tumors. In the grocery, the separation
between organic and GMO is as rigidly enforced
as that between kosher and treyf, and with as much
logic. If I had a clear and distinct idea
of where I was going, I’d know what to do next.
Maybe listen to a record, pour a glass of some
exotic but cheap liqueur, light a fat spliff.
The first one—ah, the tragedy!—rolled over
Nick’s feet, that warm evening last spring, fell
between the boards into the water below. The second
hit me hard, knocked me off my feet
like I hadn’t been knocked before. We’re all
older than we’ve ever been—wry cliché. Younger, also,
than we’ll be tomorrow morning. Our Savior, scripture
says, went forty days without food or society,
and afterwards was hungry. Fast then temptation
                Citing scripture to th’accuser’s face
                temple pinnacle kingdoms of earth
                sons of pride to be compared
                state of war exemption nasty
                brutish a scramble among crumbs

                Abraham’s bosom Lazarus in glory
                Dives proper name or class
                designator formations of production determining
                consciousness shepherds oxen and particolored
                kine huddled in apartments tenanted

                Overborne edgeworth and outwearied for
                Jesus’ sweet sake implore thee
                open the tomb stratum by
                stratum and dating our discontent
                by the styles of potsherds

                Autumn Gold Avocado of childhood
                toothpaste cars of pre-millennial angst
                diggings flocked embroidered and hemmed
                with Mallarmé’s abolished lacework gracefully
                turned fleeced faun’s thigh stooped

                For the golden apples t’ignore
                the ravening board bright red
                flesh sexually differentiated by skin
                tone though streaming identical coiffures
                signal Idomeneus or just archer
                and these our bones ought be found
                        in the fourth stratum, just below
                        the second great burning
                                that melted all the glass and circuit
                boards into Pollock dribbles
of color veining the soil
                        red clay and yellow sedimentary
                        rocks, hauled out in paper bag after bag
                        each successive one minding me
                                of the dead cat I dug up with
my friends at eight or nine, the squirrel
            I tipped with a shovel-end into a new
                    hole behind the garage—
            by five minutes, missed the funeral
            and in the fourth stratum, where the living
        walked in concentric circles, dancing-floor
        of a grand Troy-town saloon, the soft
green leathers of Oz and the Castro
                Gypsum blocks softened by rain
                shattered frescos rebuild themselves into
                blueprints three strata down for
                concrete and rebar pillars astonishingly
                anticipate Art Deco Miami Beach

                Under the sun the bruising
                rain set to competition diggers
                both Turk and Hellene selfsame
                taskmaster hornéd English Pharaoh hawk’s
                profile but frontal kohl-rimmed eye

                Drop of water great fixéd
                gulf stratum and stratum means
                of production earth groans beneath
                history weight of misery heavens
                opening just another technicolor vista

                The first rainbow was miraculous
                only because first their diggings
                find stratum under stratum until
                shovel-tips scrape boneless rock soft
                dull fur of the wee

                Thing paws clasped as if
                in petition ground under our
                soles a compost of dying
                petitioners cards papers and soft
                tissue melting into yellow sediment


MARK SCROGGINS lives in Montclair, New Jersey and Manhattan. His most recent book of poems is Pressure Dressing (MadHat, 2018). Forthcoming this year are Zion Offramp 1-50 and a collection of essays and reviews, Arcane Pleasures: On Poetry and Some Other Arts.


Read more by Mark Scroggins:

Reviews in Hyperallergic
Poetry in X-Peri

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