-/- Tom Carlson -/-


Artist Statement:

Do clouds scorn the jingle of an iphone and then celebrate the call of a skylark? Do they mourn the death of one virtuous human and then applaud the last breath of a depraved one? Do they favor one noble bunny over a frantic and cowardly one?

These kind of distinctions seem reserved for humans. If a particular appeal to language can channel the perspective of certain regal clouds, some deeper and forbidden strata of the earth’s crust, then I am interested in carrying this. I want to distinguish between things on a premise that departs from human values.

Do the stars detect wayward spirits in a smokestack that bellows black, in the racket of a garbage truck, and in the crack of lightning that will provoke a forest fire?

Stars are interested in the movement of wayward spirits. It might be that the song of poetry is the best way meager mortals can offer these movements up, offer them to a sky ready to kindle the immortal preservation of moments and things that bear these wayward spirits.

Friedrich Nietzsche says a few things about recognizing beauty in what is necessary so that he will no longer negate what Life inevitably will thrust upon him. My work begins to consider a perspective outside my own skull. Out and up there, what is necessary or what might harm my walking and hopeful little subject is impossible to negate; what happens to little me and little you only makes itself distinct to the clouds and the stars by its own beauty, by a beauty independent of human utility, and morality. My work experiments toward an extraterrestrial valuation.

Cellophane Scripture

There is the distant groan of a Mack truck,
Croak of a passive toad.
Slanted sparkles fall from a sky that smothers,
Onto indifferent battering-ram headlights.

The trees slow lumber.
That’s all you ever do.
Go away.

I’m impatient with the clatter of a skeleton wind-chime,
Go inside.

On the shoulder
a burnt tortilla bullfrog in full superman
is ignored.
A Mack truck groans again.
A ford contour jerks back into its lane
the driver hits the send button on their phone.
Someone should tell that possum
to get its nose out of the expired bag of Taco Bell.

No-one finds the possum’s tale worth confiding in,
a cold pink flesh chord.
It gets dragged through gardens and collateral sign,
glass-sand, rush-hour, and a return from save-a-lot.
The thrift-store drop-off attendant's face.

Dusk in a windy brown field,
a frozen exhale and frosted crunch.
In a burrow, pointless and incessant,
frenetic panting,
a cottontail in eternal panic.
A tanker in reverse sends a muffled beep,
Natural gas plant in the golden hills.
Dust in my shoes and between my toes.
Dusk and radio-shadows,
clicks from forgotten spreadsheets.
Smells like a paper-jam.
Clatter of a chain-link fence.
But its autumn;
Hackberry leaves know this and pay attention.
They shiver: the prairie leaves tracks in a
terse canopy.

The muffled beep is drowned.
A chorus of shrieks and wales
A chorus of reminders and due-dates

Recall: a drop of sweat trickles down a pocked brow
down an irritable inner thigh.
Cumulus drumheads and a chalk mouth.
A helmet snaps under a thumb
Trees fall and carry power-lines carry down poles into windows and walls
Teeth in another sheep rump, it bleats and moans.
––And the cottontail sighs once.––
Fire on a rooftop and calloused palm to a face.
More piss down a tepid thigh.
Airbags pummel dummies or people.
Spittle from a coffee-stained grimace.
The car won’t start, and it won’t stop raining
Dusk in a windy brown field:
Seven pairs of eyes in the dark
Twenty eight bellowing and dancing paws
All bang cumulus drum heads
Robust esophagus vital as the candor of death.
Loud roll of steam from snowy teeth.

Splendid and grisly
What is the sound of a shredded hide?
A punctured gullet?
And the last shriek mixed with blood?
So it happens to a feeble calf.
Goodbye, I guess,
Do we mourn the end of seasons?
Why do they decorate the porch with the viscera?
How does the carcass’ eye become rubber?

More bizarre, gruesome, and terrific:
They sing so loud they capsize the power-grid.
The trees keep lumbering.
The cottontail spasms, then sighs, then breathes frenetically again.
The possum found a soda can
An owl blinks big; she agrees.
They sing so loud, I bet my chest could fissure.
Atoms try to catch their breath
They sing loud enough to engage the tear ducts of stars.
The rocks look down solemnly.
The moose stops, one hoof still in the air, his dewlap wobbling.
A text-message experiences a delivery failure.
Fingernails scrape dead skin from the frustrated forehead.
They sing more.
They set off tornado sirens
Windows in high-rises tremble then blow.
Tires hiss then are flat.
The owl blinks big again.
They sing the carnal decree
Blood swells and spins

A light that whirs approaches the mountains.
It disappears, and the whir continues.
Getting closer.
The moose tilts its head because he’s curious, the dewlap wobbles more.
The text-message finally goes through
and the whir grows louder.
The singers stop and they tilt their heads too.
The light appears again, it breaches the crest of a windy pale hill,
larger than the moon.
Violent wind and the engine makes hearing vapid.
The foreign moon that stings and chatters
Hones in.
Inside are men with new radios and big headphones
Men with carpets and food processors.
Wedding rings and maybe a high school lacrosse trophy.
Tempurpedic, a five-year plan, political inclinations.
An argument with his daughter’s math teacher.
Dad has a catheter, fell down the steps.
The men in the helicopter hone in.

Its all over quickly,
Typical of high-desert storms.
The cottontail finally emerges from his hole.
Still and always frenetic.
Four wolves are dead from bullets.
The owl is perched sleeping
And the toad in superman was ran over by a Mack truck.
A helicopter bigger than the moon
So the rest of the wolves sing again.
Less boom and now a steel tenor.
The carnal decree endures; it did not budge.
The moose stops to listen, water drivels from his flabby lips.
The brown field shudders a personal regret
The grass shivers unsure if the song is appropriate.
Some stalks feel privy to an expired stricture
and a new one that shines like cellophane.
Then the song ends.
Urine and blood push through the Dad’s catheter,
but the good doctors will make sure he lives.
And the remaining wolves pounce on field mice in the warm dawn.
The brown grass howls with the wind.