Lee Ballentine

CHICAGO 1968-1896

by a kind of bribery
the gelatin of chicago finally sets

in its dislocation of trance
in proximity of the tarot of spitting

with artifice of drums
and the whereabouts of a wandering son

the most important sleep
torture has ever produced

bespattered with languages
steeped in their balsam

photographed in the smut of forgetfulness
deceived by the white buildings

arrested for unlawful assembly
its mother-of-pearl armpits

and its red genitals
arcane and numerous

all lost in a coma of thirst
while a sleeping car of halberds

crashes into the street
outside the squat

and the sounds of ringing hammers
waterlogged and elongated

are brought up from the lake
are brought down from the circadian air

and sold at a discount by immigrants
in an abandoned storefront perplexed by scorn


is it stranger that her body is flushed and patchy, or that it fires like a glock?
or that her dead relatives rise from the grave like laundry being picked up?

is it more harrowing that her father is a day in the calendar?
or that he put his hands on her once, and then the doorbell rang?

she knows only that there is a certain clumsiness in despair
as if an infant born prematurely, years later fumbles tying its shoe

and that there is a way of coughing up blood
that leaves the fingernails pale and starry, and has a massive face

a way of making a bed out of the minerals and metals
of the glacier country, so that sleep is a kind of burnishing

a way of making passes in the air with a system of logic
so that destitute & dead musicians also rise from the ground with a rasping noise

ashamed of the lead color of their hands, which they keep in their pockets
with the forged metals of their collapsed orchestras

and score instead the involuntary noises she makes during sex
for oboe and chinese gong and insinuations


she'll be coming round the mountain when she comes
out of the bird colossi of the fountain pen
pecking in the entrails of tanganyika

out of the languages learned by extraction from the spine
out of latin, rus, and malice prepense
out of the languages left behind in heavy loam
when her ancestress departed wearing an iron circlet

out of the sea of little paper flags that jittered
a summer night in 1919 when eli cooper was hanged
in dodge county georgia for "talking considerable of late
in a manner offensive to the white people"

she'll be coming round the mountain when she comes
out of the roaring silences of careful suicides
out of their reckless mumbling recycled like scrap metal
out of boulevards given over to stealth and sarcasm

out of the rolling double-breasted carriages that roll
on them and out of the green lawn that covers the dead
they roll to and the mirror tilted to reflect nothing
the hand of invisibility and the lost severance of roses

and she will be coming round the mountain when she comes
out of the hazy 1960s wrapped in the bright 1970s
out of the burned-out houses muffled in crimson snow
out from among the gunned-down mannequins broken apart on the firing range

out of the transmutation of metals into flesh
out of the dusty cities of apothegm georgia
walking barefoot on roads of studded glass
she will be coming round the mountain when she comes

out of the grimy vestibule of the wanderers
out of the breathing of quack doctors on her
their hypertrophic fingers stubbing her abdomen
out of the society of scientists fussing with the nucleus of the atom

* * *

she will be driving six white horses when she comes
out of the temple of money
between the walls covered with sacred scenes
from the lives of counterfeiters

after we win the lottery
and buy the only supermarket left
and crash the grocery carts around
and break all the wine bottles
by swinging frozen legs of lamb

she'll be driving six white horses when she comes
out of the drunken magician's mouth as he sings
drifting by like a cocktail party that vanishes
out of the pockets of the well-fixed man
who contributes only blasphemy to the poorbox

she'll be driving six white horses when she comes
out of the illegible signature of shakespeare
written in a blank book that's for sale
in a church goods store that offers nipple piercing

out of gravity's cock and magnetism's cunt
out of the roaring silences of orgasms that burn like baptism
out of the soot-colored silk of a tall hat
left in her by a stranger after a one-night stand and the surgery to remove it

and she will be driving six white horses when she comes
out of the sphere of the black sun beyond proxima centauri
nine months after we met
and gives birth to a wet rainbow sweet as marmalade

* * *

and we will all go out to meet her when she comes
flying around the mountain
chased by a halo of kinetic faces speaking their lines

when she comes around the mountain
like a drum roll, superheated
to burn the white ice off their bones
and leave them rattling
like dry leaves kicked by a big dog
running around the mountain

and the mountain will come down around her
and come with her
all around her in a rolling cloud
when she comes, when she comes

* * *

and we'll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes
we will all have chicken and dumplings when she comes

Lee Ballentine edited the journal UR-VOX. He had the pleasure of knowing, and publishing the work of, both Philip Lamantia and David Gascoyne, and shared with David an interest in the history and metaphysics of nitrous oxide.
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