Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Bryan Dietrich


The Heat Death of the Universe

"It's wanting to know that makes us matter."
-Tom Stoppard

It was like catching your God with her knickers
down. You found out one day the universe
must end.
      Fourth grade, back of the class where books
lined the walls with all the words you'd ever need.
There, between gloss and cardboard, cardboard
and crayon marginalia, you discovered
what you'd been taught to fear. Something very like
a coelacanth, a fish, Mr. Limpitt
with feet, peddling up bog banks to test
the air. Blasphemy. And worse - Baptist
that you were - the rest of the story. What
came before, what must, according to Bohr,
inevitably follow. The birth of atom,
the death of atom's children. A fuller version
of creation than you'd known, been
allowed. Revelation without apocalypse,
apocalypse without demons (Maxwell
not withstanding). It was all there, tri-tone,
nearly 3-D, all you could ever ask for
in a doomsday scenario. The heat death
of everything, the cold slowing of heaven's
hurled bodies, the gradual extinction
of what seemed would expand forever.

Funny, but Fenrir never struck you
like this, that quaint Nordic myth of how
it all might end in snow-slow, zero-laden
stasis. The great wolf presiding over
what couldn't last with his last blast of feral
breath, his great howl, growl by growl growing
silent as ice between here and the end
of the world. But this. This was dangerous.
It claimed a kind of authority, say, the story
of five Chinese brothers didn't. So you did
what you had to do. Approached the teacher, Woods,
Mrs. Woods. Showed her the book. Asked her
to hide it, burn it, take it as far away
from you and your faith as her own faith
in you would allow.
     Coolidge Elementary.
When the days wind down and the sun begins
at last to consume what it has given, you
wonder, still, if that book will remain. There.
Top shelf. Too high for you to reach. Beached.
Unburned. Burning with all its answers.


Keep Watching the Skies

Over four billion years of Grace, and then what?
In the heart of the Yucatan, its deep
crater, down below the boundary between
thunder lizard and thunder god, between
the laying down

of one discarded mantle and another,
there is that which we will never recover,
that which set our planet reeling like a bell.
In the year sixty-six, Josephus described a sword
hung over Jerusalem.

June twenty-fifth, Twelfth Century, five monks
watch the moon's upper horn split in two, spout
flame. And Montezuma, and Giotto...
The end of empires, the beginnings of kingdoms,
heavenly ones, on Earth.

Harbingers. Heartbreak. A Siberian fireball.
Dead trees, dead dinosaurs, dead, Tunguskan air.
From Chicxulub to Arizona, from a walled,
crater-carved city in Europe - its church
heat flashed diamond -

back to the cold accumulation of Oort
itself, the sky is always falling. Somewhere. Great,
black, gap-toothed chunks of celestial snow, doom's
detritus cast down like Thrones from the walls
of heaven, or... No.

The heart aches for so much more than just some rock,
haphazard, rent from the unremarkable
orbit it has always known. But stones, simple
stones are inevitable. Collision. Oblivion.
The heart's conceit.


Dementia

"You can't kill the Boogeyman."
-from Halloween

You meet a woman, a worker of words
who loves O'Connor and Hitchcock's Birds,
all horror stories, the better for worse.
She's blonde and Wiccan, a comely curse.

   Zombie, chainsaw, fetus, hook,
   athame, candle, bell, book.

Her spell is modern, her interests, yours.
She knows of triffids and cepheids and spoors.
She, too, once sat in the glow of the screen
while the monsters processed and summer grew green.

   Alien egg sac, mouthful of brains,
   priest on the sidewalk, count the stains.

She takes you first by neck by eye,
then takes you again with the gorgeous lie
of language spun from the life she's not
lived so much as faced and fought.

   Tooth, claw, razor, bone,
   Halloween, Twilight Zone.

The monsters she has staked and boxed,
buried out by the hollyhocks,
outnumber yours by kith and kind.
Hulk, brute.... Malign design.

   Rosemary's Baby, Eraserhead,
   Race With the Devil, Dawn of the Dead.

You want her to know that you understand,
that sometimes the thing in the dark, The Hand,
is still attached to a heart that speaks.
The first date comes. You rent her Freaks.

   Stalker, slaughter, barker, blight.
   We live and love in black and white.