CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Canaan
James McCorkle



1. Sortilege


The news is always of rapture

A plume of dust, the raking of ashes

What we mean provokes a shift in attention

The boundary becomes diffuse and continuous

Have you beheld the lights

It is always the brother will eat the limbs of his brother, the dog the dog, the lamb will look up with bloody muzzle, flies congressing

We are approaching a history where no one will remember

A world without AIDS

What we mean by poetry is not language simply marked nor socially categorized as marked

As the great dunes of the Sahara continued to encroach southward

The dog the dog, the ashes the ashes

What is significant is the approach to the condition, the duration where forgetting is conscious, before the condition already given is assumed always the given

Through repetition language becomes marked, departs from conventional social constructions

External travel was restricted

The dust the dust

What is significant is the southward encroachment, water sources turning saline, the thinning of vegetation, a blossoming tree we had never seen before

Pinned on its thorns birds, plumage blackened, eyes pitted

The news was of rapture, lights seen, plumes

Brother cast out by brother, to let the desert greet him

The condition has stabilized to that of a persisting epidemic

Death benefits to the bereaved have been eliminated

Reports revealed he was still conscious when dragged

Reports revealed the pit contained at least three-hundred

Reports revealed guidelines instructing the use of increased physical pressure

This included shabeh, gambaz, and tiltul

We are approaching a history

The lights the lights the lights were

Falling








2. An Autobiography


Geography is the primer for autobiography,
The mapping of a vicinity, what is
Kept in and cast out.

Who comes to the temple and who is barred,
The olive trees planted,
And those uprooted, cast in the desert.

Memory stricken, this story that waits
Has already been told,
But the words were lost as they were coming to us.

Waking, what were the names
Of the trees, the taste
Of salt licked from skin, the scent of sea blown in from a place called distance.

I am selfish, wanting this, constructing
Desire in the fold of want,
The trees, gone nameless, bend in the wind.

Asked if I had ever contemplated it, I said yes,
But knew I could never,
Since too much depended I thought on the next day.

The next day is a dream the gods have
Made their way
Across the desert, delicate and cruel, so much like ourselves.

They become us. For what else could the divine be
But the register
Of our failures, written in our own hand.

There is no single story, yours rests with
Mine, thigh to thigh,
A lamp swings above us, insects glitter briefly with what we remember.








3. Reliquaries


His limb, mine.
His water, mine.
His grove, mine.
His words and my words.
Two circles drawn, not touching.
His knife, mine.
Who will come to the altar first, with the first lamb, the first born, the first of the other
Will claim the land, the sun, the water
And wrap the other in ash and lice and burn
The claim to home and safe return
And set nothing there
As relic, the tracks leading into the hills
The only trace.
The land empty, ours.

A fossil—tooth or shell—wrapped
In cotton.
A digit, wrapped in linen, shrunken
Into amber hide.
Leaf, feather, blossom, pressed
Into the pages of a book.
Vial of sand, vial of salt, vial of water,
Sealed with wax.
Bone, maybe from femur or tibia, locked
In a hammered metal box.
Nail parings, a clutch of hair, bread, fish, the sediment
Of wine, a dried spot of semen or spit, a brick, blood on sheets,
Hypodermic, iv tubing, torn fabric, a photo of a child, a message written and lost,
The smell of honey and wet earth.

Break open the jars, the tombs.
Break open the houses, the books.
Break open the olive wood, the ground.
Break open the wounds, the lesions.
Break open the words, the seeds.
Scatter them until there is no history.
Until the faces are scrubbed out by sand.
The sand covers the roads,
And their tongue travels alone
In the beak of a crow.
This is the rule, the word,
The claim of one brother over another,
This is the story, the river that has no other
Side, no other ending, no law but this one.