Flavor Town USA Poetry: “The Bloated Whale & The Barfly” from THE DUST THAT SINGS by Alex Gregor

 

we was sittin along the bywater drinkin white wine spritzers,
when a dead whale washed up on the shore all bloated & swollen.

so we carried our glasses down to where the sand met the shore
& poked the mammal with a stick,

till water shot out of the blowhole into our faces,
& anchovies slid out of its mouth onto our feet,

& a stench rose up from the sand into our noses,
so that we had to cover our mouths with our hands
& step back from the carcass that laid out in front of us.

the boar hunter reached into his pocket & pulled out a knife,
which he stuck into the belly of the whale,

& sliced open the blubber
till the guts spilled out onto the sand.

& the gar fisherman,
he pointed to the whale’s stomach,

& the hunter cut it open,
spillin out a sea of plastic from the organ
onto the sand,
so that it came kneedeep
on our legs.

we turned to the bartender,
who had wandered down to the beach with the crowd,

who had poured himself a campari spritz for a stroll,
who shook his head and said:

well i’ll be damned,
thas the third one this week.

& the barfly,
standin next to the bartender with a fernet in hand,

grunted,
cleared his throat,
looked out at the horizon,
spat,
and began:

 

~~~~

 

THESE SEAS— 

THESE SEAS—

THESE SEAS— 

ARE STRANGE SEAS,

howls the barfly, one hand in the pocket of his swimmin shorts
& the other wrapped round a koozie snugtight on his bottle,

staggerin round the trash speakin in tongues to the crowd:

THESE NAVEL GAZERS,
THEY DO THE FINE FIGURE
ON A PILE A RUBBISH,
WITH THEIR HEADS IN THE PAST.

THESE COAL MINERS,
THEY DYNAMITE THEIR MOUNTAINTOPS
& LET THE LEAD SEEP DEEP INTO THE WATERSHED,
THEN SLURP UP MOUNTAIN DEW & DUST BOWL.

AND WHEN THE SOIL IS GONE,
THESE BANKERS SWEEP THEIR YARDS
WITH A WITCH’S BROOM,
THEN WONDER WHY THE ROOTS WON’T HOLD.

the seedy panhandle beachtown drunk is peerin into the mouth of the whale now,
pokin & proddin its teeth & massive swollen tongue, sayin: 

THIS DON’T COME FROM THE HEAD,
THIS COME FROM THE GUT,
SO I RUN RUN RUN
BETWEEN A SHOTGUN & A TROMBONE.
I MUNCH DOWN ON A GRASSHOPPER
& STICK MY FINGERS INTO A MILK COW & MOAN,
THEN CRY OUT, YAHOO!

WITH THE CADILLACS AT OUR DOOR 
WITH A SUIT & TIE IN HAND,
WE GRASS.
WE BAMBOO.
WE HARVEST OUR ROCKS
FROM THIS OLD SEA FLOOR
& BUILD SHELLS
TO HORSESHOE,
NAUTILUS,
HERMIT,
& CONCH.

he’s standin on top of the leviathan now, 
fingerin the blowhole & raisin his glass to the sky,
proposin a toast:

HERE’S TO DAEDALUS, 
FLYING TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN,
MAY OUR WINGS OF WAX MELT 
LIKE A BLOCK OF BUTTER, BABY.

HERE’S TO THE RHAPSODES WITH LYRES,
SPINNIN TALL TOLD TALES
FROM THREADS OF SILK.

HERE’S TO HOMER WITH THE PHORMINX,
A REAL RHYME SPITTER.

HERE’S TO MOSES WITH HIS STAFF,
PARTIN THE SEAS.

HERE’S TO THAT MUDDY RIVER DELTA,
SPREADIN ITS FINGERS CROSS THE BLUE BAYOU.

HERE’S TO THE SPRAWLIN LOWCOUNTRY,
FLOODIN WITH WATER BROTH, BRACKISH & SWEET.

HERE’S TO THE GLISTENIN BARD DRIPPIN WITH SEAWATER,
READIN THE LANGUAGE OF STARS.

HERE’S TO THE BICYCLE THAT SHARPENS KNIVES,

OH, SWEET SALVATION,

MY GLASS IS NEITHER TOO EMPTY NOR TOO FULL,
IT’S JUST ENOUGH,

LIKE WHEN YOU FEEL THE GROUND BENEATH YOUR FEET,

LIKE WHEN YOU FEEL THE PINK DOLPHIN BETWEEN YOUR LEGS,

LIKE WHEN YOU SNAP A SNAKE’S HEAD OFF 
BY SWINGIN EM ROUND YOUR HEAD, SAYIN:

WE ARE THE DUST THAT SINGS.

WE ARE THE SEDIMENT THAT MOANS.

WE ARE THE SAND THAT HOWLS.

WE YAWP, YELP & YIP,
YUP YUP.

the barfly goes on, pacin round the crowd,
spit flyin from his mouth into their faces,
the skin under his chin shakin like a turkey waddle:

AND AT NIGHTFALL,
WE RISE TO THE SURFACE WITH THE KRILL,
THE PLANKTON AWAIT US,

OH, COPEPODS,
SHEDDING LIGHT,

OH LUMP OF MUD 
SPINNIN INTO A CLAY POT,

OH MUDSKIPPER,
CRAWLIN UP THE BANKS,

OH STREAM OF SAND,
SLIPPIN DOWN AN HOURGLASS,

LET’S PUSH THROUGH THIS GLASS CEILING
& BUST IT.

 

Also from THE DUST THAT SINGS

“The Hourglasses”

“The Lowcountry Chef”

“The Animal Garden”

“The Shrimpboat Captain”

“The Sugar Eaters”

Alex Gregor is a writer, editor, and educator from Atlanta, Georgia, currently living in Rome, Italy. He is one of the founding editors of OOMPH! Press, the banjo player in the band, The Ship & The Swell, and a member of the Department of English Language & Literature at John Cabot University. Find out more at marginalcomets.com.

Image: Alex Gregor

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