Alluvial cities by Christopher M. Hannan

By Christopher M. Hannan

The poems in Alluvial towns are drawn from this layered landscape's geology and background, its humans and language, and the kindred ties among earth and water, flesh and blood.

DEUCALIONIDS
The waters broke from the void prior to first light,
a divinity ripping throughout the trembling flesh
of marshes and the levees’ previous clay thighs,
protecting each mile of St. Bernard Parish.
 
homes with their cement slabs have floated
mild because the rinds of watermelons you ate as a boy
and chucked into Lake Catherine, swelled to overflowing
by way of the god that surged into the Rigolets estuary
 
and left an afterbirth of candy crude leaked
from foundered tanks.  automobiles grasp like carrion
birds at the maximum branches and torn roofs.  Leached
of dust and flood waters, the homes we go cry out
 
damaged window panes, duct-taped refrigerators, and a stillness
that leaves us at the useless grass of this
woman’s domestic, like such a lot of thrown bones.

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Sample text

Dusk resonates like breath before its last chromatic strains fade, red veins receding among blue tones the imperfect time of night’s reprise. These last hours resound with dying light and song, when darkness swells around the shaded and rattling throats of evening doves. **** —Salvatore Quasimodo, Acquamorta The batture clings around the knees and gnarled limbs of bald cypresses and snagged driftwood like old cartilage. This soil lies eroding as winter currents stretch past ligaments of levees.

Years ago I fished with a cane pole and a spark-plug off the asphalt that now is scree along this new canal’s banks. They’ll dig all the way from Breton Sound to the pontoon bridge at Paris Road. The dragline chews through mud like a catfish and flips to spit the spoil on the banks. The boy asks why it stinks so bad. I tell him it’s because things die to feed the oyster grass and Roseau canes, and it’s the smell of death that makes all the redfish, trout, and flounder live in the marsh. He barely hears, runs and jumps feet-first into the sludge, giggling waist-deep in the earth.

It smells vaguely familiar, the salt of skin in naked shoals and these gasping small deaths. Some lie partly covered in the exposed mud waiting for small Antigones to bury them in the silt of their birth, the sediment of their decay. This painful beauty, uncovered earth in tides, digs into you like clams as children dig their holes. After two calm days the lake is back to normal, and only pilings jut like thighs from ruffled sheets to hint that there is ground below the modest, winking waves that gouge our eyes like Oedipus, leave us blind to things that move below the surface.

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