Andrew Kalaidjian

If you stare too long
at the holes
bored into the earth
one next to the other
so close they are on
top of each other
holes in holes
holes upon holes
you may start to feel
fear, disgust, revulsion

One pocket of disease
or blood congestion
pulled into another
part of the body
provides only
temporary relief

If you think
of all the holes
in all the tanks
of cars, trucks, engines
in to which is poured
fuel of varying grades
pumped up and down
internal combustion
poured out through
like putting
your hand through
a cheese grater
garlic through the press
worms wriggling out
or snakes wriggling in
the pores of your face
the vertigo
of falling through a sieve
then a groundhog
pokes out his round snout

Is it fear, disgust, or both
or something else?

Legend has it
that Odysseus resisted
the lotus
not through some
rectitude or
sobriety of mind
but rather out of fear
and revulsion at the irregular holes
pockmarking the seedhead
foretelling its soporific
psychotropic distillate

by the very fruit
that would have taken away
his unease
and provided rest
the pharmakon
the poison and the remedy
the wound and the cure
no cure no pay

But that is nonsense
you will say
surely it was not
nymphaea but ziziphus
the jujube’s cousin
whose leaves are used
to wash dead bodies
the feet of the deceased face east

The oil soaked
of fish and fowl
washed in the Dawn
degreased with phenoxyethanol
propyleneglycol and terpineol
‘Discover the Chemicals’
only oil can fight oil

The suds and bubbles
like so many holes
fractals in the mind
cleaning away the
making it whole again
cutting through the
tough stuff
the layers of grease
accumulating day after day
one cut of bacon fried at a time

Until Odysseus arrives
to force me back
on the ship
with gnashing teeth
and dragging limbs
where the portholes
are all the same size
and there’s no need to row
nor even stoke the boiler
but just sit
and watch
and soak up the vibrations
of the direct-drive diesels
spinning twin turbines
380 tons daily consumed
by the Cunard QE2
from the old world to the new

The hole marks the absence
but in doing so
announces its own presence
the phases of the moon
chronicle this basic truth
if you stare long enough
at the night sky
of the new moon
the rings and tendrils
of the Milky Way
gobbling up neighboring galaxies
will tell the secret
of the hole
at the center of it all
and beyond that
the age of black holes
where all light falls
into sloping portals
each one different
each one promising the same fate
each one without
the possibility of escape

Andrew Kalaidjian

Andrew Kalaidjian is the author of Exhausted Ecologies: Modernism and Environmental Recovery available from Cambridge University Press. His writing has appeared in Angelaki, Modernist Cultures, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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