Joel Chace

The Plague Year Return of Plague Year Narrative
The great rolling came from afar but was soon upon us while some were still shaping sentences. ____________________________Nudge it a little more that way. What’s the price on that? There’ll be a guy over tomorrow to do an inspection. What exactly are you trying to say? Those were ones. An article on a woman who had just started labor but stopped herself and refused to participate until someone who wasn’t even there agreed to leave the room. That caused a stir. A slew of old songs began reechoing, many of them unfortunate. People published lists. ___________________________________________Pin, recalibration, plain white foundation, reagent, bluing, string. Acknowledgement, dirt, rectangle, flour, tubing, bell, greening, stalk. Candle, mask, count, yellowing, tongue. Those were ones. Sky-high. Concussive. Wave. Houses turned into triangles. Stories about people inside. _______________________________________A body in fire. Her body in a fire. Embodiment of fire. Fire burns her voice, but he doesn’t understand. Misunderstanding, a fire consuming like no other. Her eyes in fire. Her words silent in fire. Her body hardens in fire. Her eyes harden in fire. The flames of her eyes try to be words, a voice he doesn’t comprehend. Gown for night. Gown of night. Her final gown. Her skin in fire strains up from inside the fabric. Fire gown. He fingers its cotton, then walks upstairs, leaving her with the tiny fire-bellied toad of poisonous properties. That was one. All undone. Hardly begun.
Hunting: The Plague Year
Same order: advance the winnowing. ______________________________________________During the present order, intercession for the weak is possible. All up and down ranks, chosen people step back into their own shadows. What’s required includes collecting each severed __________________________________...our blood-guiltiness toward animals tries to find release… animal leg left next to its trap. Searchers _____________________________________Suddenly, as though a cloud came over the sun, the air was cold and the noise died down to a twittering of birds. Men and women looked about, everyone silent. must proceed at a general’s double-arm’s length. Light now slants through the woods. So…They return to garrison. So…With minds a-stutter, hearts in tatters. _____________________________________________...a confused crowd of others in curious or ragged clothes, and all had their eyes fixed with the same look… They’ll sleep, wake. Tomorrow, same order.
Fishing: The Plague Year
Early-April. This one screams. ____________________________________...they occupy a part of the soundscape that had previously been assumed… irrelevant to human communication. Smacks lake-water with his right hand. Drags his already drowned brother with his left. This one, screaming, wants to drive a nail through icy water. To nail it quickly to shore. To bring them instantly there, him and his already dead carpenter ____________________________________…stretcheth out his rule… marketh it out with a line…fitteth it with planes…marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. brother. Whom he pulls. Away from the already sunken boat. _____________________________The catch had rapidly changed in shape and size from pretty one-pound trout, to great-eyed, loose-mouthed, cod-like monsters piled high in a horrible heap. Toward that nightmare, far. Fixed ______________________________________...being in a void that is rumbling deeply like an airplane engine attached, with all its awful weight, to the head… shore.
Transport: The Plague Year
A trestle that trembled…_____________________________________When the No. 38 eased over…the sensation was more akin to ballooning than to railroading. and held its ties, rails, trains _________________________________10,000 sleds dispatched one day from a toy works. that trembled it, ___________________________________________The shaking could be felt at the north end of the high girders when a train entered the south end, around half a mile away. while it held together this landscape. Beneath the space that held its trestle, a dark, rushing stream.
Money: The Plague Year
Bones bright under sun, brighter beneath moon. ____________________________________________In lunar light, on a chariot made of bones of the dead, he drove at furious speed. Silver-fingered Tell-Tale taps ______________________________________________...very, very dreadfully nervous…but why… say that I am mad? softly, insistently, at the door. So much out here. Something called a coin gleaming on the sidewalk. Another, here. Five more. Come on. Out, and bring your own gamble-bones. ______________________________...fashioned from the ankles of sheep, marked on four sides, used as magical devices that could predict the future…Casting lots, a way of saying this decision is beyond human intelligence. Let’s ask a god. Capital idea.
Abeyance: The Plague Year
Their unerring sense for what comes next: Elgar with his hunter; ____________________________________________The beginning is laden with anticipation. Vaughn Williams with his lark. ______________________________________________E, G, A, B, D (1, 3, 4, 5, 7) For what must come next. But what, when nothing comes next? *** Abeyance: no ascent; _____________________________________The basis of his work is the line: a melody with a visionary quality and a broad humanity. whole sweep of all the lawns, with their mucky goldfish ponds. Pressing, hard, forearms against high windows. So much out there. But no descent. ______________________________...a tendency toward downward leaps, often of a seventh, giving its line a sharply serrated profile… *** Black surface of the fallen _______________________________________...free sweep of the line, scorning to rest on accents… river: town-lights ripple, flash, on and along. Suspended, crossing the water, gray-black pavement; same neon, illuminated windows, tv screens. And, rising, ______________________________________Orchestra and violin soloist express the metaphysical states of being and becoming, respectively. thin, thin arc of dark casting its brightest points on pavement, on river. No one out there, to see. *** Street once more empty except for two guys running behind the dark maw of a garbage truck. One picks up a can, hustles over, hands it to the other who hurls its contents into the blackness, screams, “Thank you!” then passes it back to the first, who returns the “Thank you!” So on, until the curb-man gets to a load he can’t lift. “This is a fucking bear!” So his buddy steps up. And once it’s dispatched, they face each other. “Thank you!” Company policy? Only a lark? __________________________________________…chirrup, whistle, slur and shake. Ascent? ______________________________________________...resolving the disjunction of the material and the spiritual… Descent? _____________________________________It undulates, but it is the sound of all things coming together as one. But somehow language is here. Even in the street. Especially.

Joel Chace has published work in print and electronic magazines such as, The Tip of the Knife, Counterexample Poetics, Eratio, Otoliths, Infinity's Kitchen, and Jacket. Most recent collections include Sharpsburg, from Cy Gist Press, Blake's Tree, from Blue & Yellow Dog Press, Whole Cloth, from Avantacular Press, Red Power, from Quarter After Press, Kansoz, from Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press, Web Too, from Tonerworks, War, and After, from BlazeVOX [books], Scorpions, from Unlikely Books, Humors, from Paloma Press, and Threnodies, from Moria Books.
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