Canticle for Gaslight
They dress in black and enter steadfastly to the organ’s leaden questions . . . Is the dark a habit of the disciplined? Did love shine where animals were exhausted to the point of emptiness? What episode of creation is the answer to endless manipulation . . . as a candle flame flickers on the altar and once more in the cosmos. Above the earth the solar wind sweeps the dust into a cherished form, a mold that organizes itself to line up with a thin fluid made of spit and tears. To which did you contribute, initiate in the blackest robe? You carry the dark upon your body as though a duty to sea, brick, and sand. You keep the white hidden. There is no collar to wear for this group the organ leads through the nave, the clueless in the pews clapping between movements of the Magnificat. Amen—the cymbal cries! Amen—praise to the blast of air the voice can raise to usher in the twilight. Amen—rejoice in the clamor of the final chord enduring till dawn. Then the light can creep in again. The rivers can wind through the soil and plant their cities. How they grow into places with so many species of the unlit. All the shadows have been named. Faces move around them so they can see their way to churches, hear the organs playing in the evening and through the night. They are the faces of animals examining sound. They hum on the inside, their colored fluids trembling, as they carry themselves carefully through the episodes of gaslight.
The insect bites and the whole lot of Sunday shoppers gets allergic. They've all been hanging out around the expired meat, waiting for it to go on sale. As soon as that happens, the dizziness sets in. The nausea attacks in repeated episodes, and the ringing in the ears could only mean Jesus will arrive at one of the checkout counters. He has been incognito since those goofy dinosaurs with terrible hands that look peculiar. Is it their meat the aisle walkers have gathered on Sunday to wait for? Or are they all waiting for Old Glory to wave? Officials clamor about how they should be tracking the movements of these competitive zombies. They care deeply about whose precinct they are in. They understand back pain and eat posole. They respond quickly to the free community lecture. They have hair and teeth that require protocols. They fear surgical interventions to implant thermometers. They are mindful of monitors scouting forces in the field. They advise about safeguarding the area. To everyone who looks on, it is a cautionary tale. Questions arise about why the room is spinning, why the early voting is leading to abnormal bleeding. Further away, there are even more symptoms that lie in wait. But by now too much time has passed for the meat to properly expire — it has been forgotten anyway like a mantra for distraction. Can anyone serve as master of two dogs
Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup (http://greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com/) and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios [http://linebreakstudios.blogspot.com/]. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. [http://www.timkahl.com]