A tendency to survive after disaster
BY ÉIREANN LORSUNG
April 26, 1986; March 11, 2011
Cherry trees are growing up through the house.
This morning we found another slug climbing the kitchen wall.
I’m going to tell you once:
the day you leave you’d better
do it all. No coming back.
Get your suitcase
and get out.
Within thirty miles of the disaster site animals’ bodies are useless.
At first embryos just dissolved. Being in reverse.
We went back to cells, back to what it was safe to eat.
The cherry tree
the front window is a sign
that things go on.
our way through sumac,
If you’ve left laundry on the line, don’t go back; it’s raining now.
I’m lying on the bed and preserving the shape of your body
even though your body isn’t there.
I’m stroking the indent with one most gentle finger.
Rationing this too.
The blankets are glowing. The sheets in the closet are alive.
Saplings grow through things that soften.
I can feel the small trees starting in my abdomen.
Beloved you have forgotten one shoe here in the room.
down the road
I can still see the shape
of your back—our house
and our cherry
trees crying out
for the living,
out the door
beyond you the ashes
of another city—
The veil of dust is attached to almost everything
and someone is beginning the new song,
the one we sang that day, in the dark, when even the notes were visible,
the one that begins in fire and ends with orchards growing
in our house—
BY ÉIREANN LORSUNG
Inland counties, arriving on the last train I saw cooling towers. Outline of a coal plant’s a nuclear plant where I come from. West Midlands, Water Orton, where white birch stand in succession. I saw your bright orange coat. Your work pants striped with reflective tape. Repetitive unburnished roofs of your houses and your council estate flats. All through the Midlands men’s bodies pile up in their brightness. Telephone poles, high-tension electric towers, columns supporting overpasses in the middle of nowhere a city on a hill. I saw the factory wall literally falling in as the train sped past, and people standing in line for smelting. The gas frames rise and the arched train bridges follow along. None of your business, none of your business. —forsythia Outside the car the silence of large machines —oxeye daisy —when women begin to miscarry systemically prescribe the knotted compound heads of tansy, tell them not to worry, distribute government pamphlets, issue plastic bottles of water, let the matter rest. When syntax falls ill, let poems say nothing. Pass samizdat on milk cartons. Believe or don’t believe in a landscape that keeps passing, passing.
Across the aisle, two men debate loudly in a language I don’t speak. A pair of British Transport Police arrest all Chinese nationals. The train is emptier. The age of deportation begins with a whisper. Allotments on a hill. Onions in the allotments, huts, shacks, hidey-holes, a tree house, a gamekeeper’s lodge, places in the woods: now the woods growing up in them. Midlands hawthorn in a shelled-out room. This is the last train departing for Coventry. Variegated ivy pushing through tile in our last rented house. —a moss, what was it called, did you know? A fine misting rain starts and the steeple of a church blurs in the near distance— the land smells like burning rubber— First question always a question of remainder: remnant. Meaning, who stays? Oblique and perfect curve. The canal. —We did it perfectly we kept all the original features the ear of the other is pressed to the door in houses where breakdown seems inevitable go into fields gather what is left although it will not save us go underground to the unnamed garden to the paperless hidden ones —Ribes rubrum Ribes nigrum Ribes uva-crispa —Saxifraga rosacea a glandular hair appearance of blowflies inside buildings erect inflorescence consumption of seaweed is in some places believed to be an antidote to doses as strong as 300 kJ/hr tell one another stories Meanwhile observatories and their geodesic domes passing. The ewe sheep and the lambs lying all over a field, the brightness of the land coming from the land, under the gray sky. One whiteness the wool, one limestone cuts in earth show on a far hill. How many hundreds of years will we wait to cultivate these places again? —Drosophilia melanogaster In the evening there is still a glow at certain angles. Longboat on sandbar. A field now of black and brown cows slumping, green-tagged ears. Gray face of an ewe next to a fallen tree. Where sun comes, the fields are chartreuse. This is something to remember. As they remove visas from the passport books and the books change color. Even after the desolation of the earth. We rode into this sunlight, we turned toward it. A mountain, almost not there in the distance. It was like I dreamt it. They are burning tires now, near the pink house. —Urtica dioica L. —Rumex acetosa L. —in about 1796 the pollen nearly always defective a characteristic apple smell when crushed when discovered (by illiterates by mothers?) finally by Sir H— L—, name-grantor, it had been in use in kitchen gardens for centuries Houses on the hill near Bristol Temple Meads Station, pink white cream royal blue red yellow pale purple. Fence and wall painted with paint engineered to prevent human hands from gripping. Where a back wall was, the torched interior. Much more often a blue house, a pale bright blue house, here. Evidence of the human. Even in an unpruned apple orchard near an oxbow bend. —the introduction of these elements to, the imposition of these elements upon —a human body —the properties of such elements —a suitable test population results in nausea hair loss diarrhea vomiting damage to bone marrow and central nervous system look behind you don’t give out your name —bone-set —yarrow Near Yatton a row of tiny houses: lace and scallops. Grandmother houses of the early twentieth century. Seashell houses. A man in the carriage says the machine et it and means it. Our telephones pick up our tone. Satellites track the train. He eats the entire apple, except the stem. Seeds are precious. Holds out a package of old biscuits and tea. A doll-faced balding child regards the scene. Wind dusts a factory’s empty columns. Birds can’t steer. Thirty or so caravans huddle in the lee. The Somerset Heritage Center now a metal frame. For several miles, hills of ore or gravel. Sandbags deserted in rail ditch. They are burning something nearer, now. The air is all afresh with it.
The end of history
BY ÉIREANN LORSUNG
To define force—it is that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing.
The general called it my other heart.
The chemist, a soft, silvery-white element.
The physicist wrote, a change in current generates a force.
Baptized on auction block,
the theory receives Communion
6,600 feet above Nagasaki.
A thread clung to my
dark clothes, a little thread.
It would not let go.
In newspapers it was unlinked
from everything around it:
technological perfection, descending.
It is not unlinked from me.
On whom was made no such experiment.
Its where constituent of its what.
In an all-white space, almost
no oxygen around that thread;
almost no language left at all.