Garin Cycholl (Chicago, USA): from Hostile Witness

the mold’s insistent embrace
of the concrete—it makes me
!—its respirations against
these caves, their hard, secret
histories of curtain and frost—“an
architecture of impermanence”
split open and ailing with light,
like the stone buildings were
pulled up out of the lake, cement
still sweating glaciers; is that a
church bell or nostalgia for six
o’clock ringing against western
sky, now petrified over the


the city encrusts itself on the eye—
not “limestone in its communion
with water,” but urban caves, an
architecture made of dusk, glass
reflecting the city’s shadow and
inside, bemused molds and the
weedy stink of summer—“a
common Mediterranean fantasy
of stone and water”

* * *

(this is the yr of Jackie

Chevrolet skin covering the men’s
threats—crack open the radio and
history’s dust-stung residue bleeds
into the middle night or peel the
men’s sweat back over their muscles
cramped over seats

the Chevy is a cave
the Underworld turns
around these men their
eyes make sterile numbers;
Joe McCarney turns his straw
hat in the green night their eyes

full of blood, they’ve seen
closed things—what they
believe about the country
could fit into a paper sack
or a concrete wall they
see future wars, their eyes make
not bloated animals but string
corpses along a cigar store
calendar “roaming the freeways
for half the night—where else
would they go to rehearse the
end of history—the meaning of
freeways, they’d always known”

(the fist in time)
we’ve got the Italians in the car—
prairie Venice, the streets running
with river water, lower Randolph, a
great cave of history the mold
swallows you

did Zale even see the punch coming?

* * *

your passenger is asleep whistling
some tune between snoring “is that
Dixie?” you ask in America,
you travel alone great birds appear
along the weedy edge, violence
crouching in the spilled headlight 2
hrs. outside Chicago and you want to
wake him but— too late now passing
Wilmington and Bainbridge still an
hr. to the all-night fill-up at Bloomington,
Springfield by sunrise, work by nine

“blood in its peaceful rage”

* * *

look, friend (he
expld) it’s not
like I’m trying to
screw your wife
or anything—I
just need you to tell
me how to get west
and you keep sending
me to Joliet; if I’d
wanted to go south,
I’d ‘ve gone to
Cairo to Memphis
to Jackson to New

he sd, America
is a road is a broken
chair is a jail cell is a
fault line

a corruptible geography
pre-Cambrian plates over
a fucking river that won’t
stay in place roads
stretched over faultlines

“nothing in writing
is easier than
to raise the

* * *

the map, coffee spilt and corrupted—
not by the mapmakers, who put made-
up towns in Louisiana and Kansas
to protect their copyrights—but by
the compass itself; to go west, you
must go south—we must descend—
Bill knew it—corruption finds its own
level, like water; try cutting the weather
out of the land—mold sealed in the
walls, the prairie spreads by fire

* * *

see how he belongs to the cutting
block, to the wallow of trembling
muscle and mess
does the butcher
shape or chop, his hands do violence
or sculpt? define the carcass’s form or
dissolve its anatomy? the animal’s
body coming apart, like the boxer’s
in jabs and hooks—doing as much
violence to himself as the man
circling him? likewise, how does
the geography leave its print on the
land? does it define or segment, give
names or sever names from their places?
a national road should name things

(where does that road go, tell
me—California or Texas? “a

sense of birthright and usable history”
our voices are not stand-ins for his’
try but are cut from the rock of time
itself—a certain meaning to these
eviscerated beasts

* * *

Nixon sd, “this is a
nation of laws” but
see decades of bad
four (Rehnquist, Powell,
Blackmun, and Berger)
dissenting in Furman v.
—see keeping
the vote down
and can
we construct a system

and June 1972, Lester
Maddox on the courthouse
steps: “it’s a dark day in this
country—rape, murder, and
anarchy—reentry to the
jungle life” eye for an
eye “embedded in the
American psyche”

* * *

you can write your History
of Cockfighting in Chicago

(write it in the dust) but it isn’t
going to exhaust the game,
(this man was always
talking) Fuck you,
I explnd—what’s more
Chicago than a room of
screaming men, stirred
up by blood whether
it’s between their knuckles,
or in their eyes?—you’d
drive 200 miles to see it—
Bullshit, he sd—nobody’s
gonna buy that, my friend, a
roomful of screaming men,
of fighting chickens, of
blood a new dark age
blooms only once a lifetime

* * *

the bonfire rots soil
in its own time—
woodshed the color
of birdshit and each
kicked-open toadstool
a threat or THE CHICKEN
each bird skinned and cooled,
plasticked and shelved

(“the cumulative violence done to birds in this land”

* * *

the governor’s song:
eating light, I emerge from the ground—
I hardly recognize my own son, my
legacy is corruption I’ve forgotten
more names than I know, the backshelf
pharmaceuticals, the things given with a
wink—was that the Illinois Central or a
tornado? I descend in a Kankakee
minute; you get homesick for the mold,
but who are the prosecutors of the
world? every childhood has its recalled
storm, its horse’s nightmare eye, the
run to the cellar (sadly, most of ours be-
long to Dorothy—the hired hands racing
the black cloud, the witch turning on her
bicycle) the prairie can’t hold it—

the leaf mold on courthouse steps
the shredding of paper
the ripple of rising water
the ignition switched off and
the car running down into midnight

© Garin Cycholl 2008