Fall 2000, Volume 18.1
Barry Ballard received his M.A. from Texas Christian University in 1983. A widely published poet, he has a strong preference for writing contemporary sonnets. His first collection, Green Tombs to Jupiter (2000), won the 1999 Snail's Pace Press Award for Poetry.
—Terry Holt, "The Universe Next Door"
I want a perfect body, an orbit
that's predictable, and under my left
arm, a massive vortex circling my breast,
large enough to swallow Earth and dismiss
the fact that it ever existed. It
will disintegrate things but the process
still leaves clouds swimming in carbon, a death
burning and freezing in salmonpink mist.
And for twelve thousand miles my eye-sockets
will shower in thick seas that fill my womb,
metallic walls cradling the birth of charged
particles, spiraling embryos wet
with the space of this new birth, with each moon
watching like assigned midwives standing guard.
Farming the Ocean Floor
They stir themselves in this muck of lightless
environment like the finger of God
swept through dense mineral and nebulous clods
of thick ash, floating sparks of light compressed
in this fight against the narcotic of
nitrogen and cold hallucinations.
Their lifeline cables unwind like code from
the desperate tension that wrestles above.
And when they sleep, their dreams are restricted
by microchips, the plastic colonies
that regulate their ability to
believe, their consciousness in this widespread
disguise of "second creation" that bleeds
into their filtered world, their bubbled view.
The Last Superstition
One more road or runway and the earth will
go flat. And you sit at the edge with your
feet hanging off into deep space, the roar
of your frustration the only real
answer for each thought that gets away. You
flinch at what you swear was the passing shape
of something brushing your legs, the earthquakes
of Venus or blue dust where hot stars brew.
Without thought you push off the blank concrete,
ignoring the voices that say heaven
is up and hell's buried deep. And vision
tells you "new earth" has nothing to complete
here, that bodies build new constellations,
the bold risk of this last superstition.
Your eyes open like the entire planet
turns over in new orbits, when the worn
surface gets hit by a bolt of skyborne
ice, an ellipse during the night that tests
your memory, its tensions and lies. The stress
of cold privacy recedes as the storms
are washed in new atmospheres that transform
the map of your face in brilliant sunsets.
And the ice melts from those first tested peaks
that surface, bold emotion poured in streams
that run down your arms where your hands are cupped,
where you wait for that first taste of the meat
and manner of all this, the clay of dreams,
naked continents when a world erupts.