The Symphony of the Whiskered

The Symphony of the Whiskered

Send the children off to bed.
It is time for us to determine if
our kin is the same sex as the crickets.
Shall we start by examining the variation
in the dead or shape our expectations and
our precedents from the testimony of crows.

Look at their large black heads projecting
malice from their eugenic past, from
their back catalog of faith in devouring
the precious specimens of crickets.
The crows will advise in how to discipline
the most desirable traits in women.
And what of men who think like pigs
and root through the debris of their religious
skirmishes for fistfuls of Halloween candy?
Are they not boars grunting to the stars for
polite acknowledgment as they are rubbing up
against the Greek statuary?

Extract the mission of language
from the everlasting muck . . . and do it with
your snout. Pull on the tail of the pig in front
of you with the hope of straightening him out.
There are strange sequences in the syllables,
grass songs and gravel songs, sand songs
and soil songs, water songs and wind songs
that feature a bit of feather percussion.
The turkeys develop their kee-kees and
yelps from a book on primal aesthetics.

They gobble together and press toward
their imagined iridescence, all their rictal
bristles on alert. They have forgotten their
origin a long time ago from a wax museum.
The toms exaggerate the claims of their plumage
and ponder more efficient fat storage in the hens,
yet they do not easily convert to the diet
of the squirrels who flick their tails to show favor
towards a reference made to sunshine
over one made to the trees. They are manic
travelers whose DNA will one day revolutionize
medicine. They can visit the Wal-Mart dumpster
and stay fit. They can manage their risky sex,
balanced as they are, scampering across
the power lines. Do they squeal in terror or delight?

Those squirrels are ventriloquists. They have thrown
their voices onto dog toys. The happy terrier
tears them apart, eviscerates the stuffing, pulling
what was hidden into light, and it is likely
among those spun nylon intestines you can find
the endpoint of surrealism. You can find the history
of colitis, the natural habits of the gut flora.
You can find the humpty dumpty clause.
You can find a squirrel singing like a bawu.

Here comes the symphony of the whiskered
lumbering toward the finish carrying all of
its covenants. Quick, before they visit
could you check to see if you finished all
your pickled herring? Quick, before
you lose interest in the world and have to
invent another one, a better one with ideas
taking shape as reed sounds. They will replace
the impulse that money makes the world go
round. Then anything with whiskers on its face
can feel its way through the dark and cry out
in sympathy for the coyote’s whimper and grin.

The yips have settled onto the contemporary stage.
The yips are playing the role of the fool
with a very straight face. The yips pledge allegiance
to the genetic tumult of the streets. The yips
appear as warts among the braided elites.
All the ingredients are listed for you to prepare
your spite. The oratorio is thickening.
The zoological soup is horrifying the orifices.
It dribbles disquiet — the final chapter of the night.


Tanglehair The Mystic

He vowed to let his hair grow until he united all of Norway, and his followers gave him the name of Tanglehair. On horseback, it kept unfurling as though the narrative of a mystic. He drew a knife and defended his beard then displayed his pubic hair embedded in a bar of soap. He said a society runs smoothest when citizens adhere to their appointed place. He stopped at the Stations of the Cross and placed a chair where his grandfather sat to witness his first cutting — a lock on the forehead sheared, lock on the temple, lock at the back of the neck, a lock for the chemotherapy girls who have paid the merchants in Peru to shave the poorest of the women there. All over the world people covet the straight white belly hair of the yak. But there is nothing symbolic about the shearing. Removing it does not make one god of thunder and ruler of heavens. One cannot even become uniter of Norway unless one rides to Grimstad, Bergen and Trondheim. The king can stop to fish a while along the shore and net the small ones in his beard. He traps them there and goes about his business. He wears the strands of the sea on his face, and the wind whips across his graying waves. No one can distinguish him from animal. This is the way he learned to feel. One by one the mosquitoes would descend upon him as a child, and he would resolve to have his blood become a meal.


Thank You, Uploader

Every ape enjoys a good tickle.
Every one of them shivers,
then pivots and recovers to bear
a musical signal through
their nerves and veins.
Everyone respects a good singing ape:
            Hoot Hoot Hoo-oo-oo
while the sick sea lions slowly wash ashore,
skin and bones. Algae blooms suspected.
Maybe the blubber hunters must return to thin some out,
or maybe the creatures suffer from tickle deprivation.

Now that we have implemented the new digital ecosphere,
upload at will. The antique bits accumulate on
the cloud of servers littered with ephemera.
Parts of dead stars look back up at the sky and refresh the page.
Can we add sensors to everything that’s real?

Thank you, uploader,
            can your oh-so-sensitive genitals
            read Braille?
Thank you, uploader,
            install the map of pathogens
            riding on the subways
Thank you, uploader,
            the death of sea stars,
            the death of spiral galaxies
Thank you, uploader,
            educate the honeybees 
           on the purpose of  melodies
Thank you, uploader,
            Please tell us how
            you would upgrade your brain

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) The String of Islands (Dink, 2015) and Omnishambles (Bald Trickster, 2019). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He is also editor of Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.

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