[“It’s image salad,” says the yellow-billed cuckoo. Fair enough. Let’s check in on the Agencies:]
"It's image salad," says the yellow-billed cuckoo. Fair enough. Let's check in on the Agencies:Department of State? Obedient walrus. Pats its head and rubs its belly,balances a globe on its fishy nose, buttering up the popcorn crowd of Arctic explorerssweating in their fancy pants, perspiring all over Finland, Finland politely ahem'ing.It's 84 degrees Fahrenheit at 64 degrees north, and the Interior Secretary is yawning,"I haven't lost any sleep over it." He's snuggling into his slippery sheetswith their 415 ppm thread count, the midnight toads' bassooning,the sexed-up mosquitos' falsetto lulling him into a carbon dioxide fantasia,where Anne Sexton in her white fur coat guns the engine in modernity's garage,hands him a vodka martini. Fuming over a panda cam focused on nothing but nothing at all,the President issues a trigger warning: "They could cut a hole in it, dig under it, climb over it,"his goosebumps pornographic, while the EPA feigns an asthma attack and ducks out of Algebra II.It's an ace in the hole on a golf course in Greenland, a serpent coiled in a bluebird box."It's gold and diamonds and fishes galore, a new arena for competition, new opportunities,new threats, a new age of strategic engagement. It's real estate!" gargles Department of State,salivating all over the bit in his mouth. Treasury stuffs his skinny arms through the loopholesin the kiddie floats, jack-knifes into the crypto-currents of the continent's waterlogged flood maps,clutching an invitation to a heated pool party where the guest list is confirmed as a matter of rote,and fuck all conflicts of interest. Bureau of Land Management, going in for the kill,stalks a couple of underaged hikers, flings them into a coal seam in the bingo-hall hills of Wyoming,and the President fluffs his pompoms with a "Push 'em back, shove 'em back, way back!"Science collapses in a heap on the field. It's the history of chlorpyrifos plagiarizedby an influencer with a toxic thumbprint and a handle swiped from a nightclubmasquerading as the mystery in a packet of seeds, a moon-pie meditation with a 401Kpiled atop the neighborhood's neck-snapping reversals, like we're standing under a falling tree,which is falling falling for a long long time, falling all the goddamned way down,the last falling tree in the universe, and nobody acknowledges the sound
“[“It’s image salad,” says the yellow-billed cuckoo. Fair enough. Let’s check in on the Agencies:]” from CROWDED: by Betsy Andrews.
Published by Nauset Press on August 20, 2022.
Copyright © 2022 by Betsy Andrews.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Betsy Andrews is the author of three books of poetry: Crowded (Nauset Press, 2022), The Bottom (42 Miles Press, 2014), recipient of the 42 Miles Press Prize in Poetry, and New Jersey (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), which was chosen for the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. She lives in Brooklyn.
"In lyric fury, Betsy Andrews aims at the heart of sickness within our ailing body politic. Cutting and brilliant, she addresses the 'dragons' within the birds chased by us into extinction, writing toward the true monsters who plunder the planet for reasons selfish and banal beyond imagining. 'Such is the pace of our fabric’s unravel,' she says, following our self-inflicted ecological traumas in generous lines of irresistible rhythm and sound. 'Are we through yet with the analogy of the boiling toad?' she asks. Yes, we are, and Andrews turns the heat up high enough we can no longer deny what’s happening around and to us."
—Marcella Durand, author of To Husband is To Tender
"Private and planetary angers twist together in Betsy Andrews’ Crowded, rising and falling together in the drunken winds of violence we have come to recognize as home. In a world colored and animated by birds, butterflies, and every beloved creature of the earth, there is no escaping the tiny and feathered father-dragon, whose feet 'clamp like Channellocks' among the finches. Where 'claws bared to the epoch, the torn shopping bags fan their tails in the branches,' the poem is unashamed of its 'nineteen shadow selves,' and flaunts its part in 'the modern trade in attention disorder.' Yet the poet’s task is not merely to exhibit its angers. Grief for a very real father is thwarted by the dragon—this real and fantastical omnipresence of both family fury and anthropogenic damage. As always in Andrews’ work, language is the life-saving force, powering forward in long, rhythmic lines, falling in and out of catalog, in and out of rhyme and a punchy hip-hop meter, to 'call sadness by its name' and clear a path for mourning."
—Susan Tichy, author of North Rock Edge