Note on the Text
With the help of biomonitoring and microbiome testing, I have shifted the scale and mode of what I think of as writing. In addition to getting my gut microbiome sequenced, I am testing myself for various chemicals including phthalates, PCBs, pesticides, flame retardants, and 31 heavy metals. I see my own body, the chemicals in my blood and urine as well as the western-diet-influenced microbes in my stomach, as forms of media expressing the biology of petroculture, revealing my own strange intimacy with the energy sources of my current historical moment. Each of these poems includes an epigraph that indicates the specific level of various chemicals in my body relevant to the topic of each poem.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
Aldrin, Serum, 0.7391304, ng/g lipid
Chlordane, oxy-, Serum, 7.681159, ng/g lipid
2,4’-DDD, Serum, 0.7391304, ng/g lipid
It is enzyme hour.
Front lawns part their hair
waiting for instructions.
Fat kids run through
sprinklers with shirts on
over grass growing
shapelessly in the deciduous forests
of the large intestine.
With mid-century Manichaeism,
many a man has lusted
after Wrigley Field,
its pre-emptive stripes
against the perennial apologists
for divided cells.
to your inner bowling green,
its role in the spread
of the horse, the wheel,
and the postwar
laboratory limb. Grass
climbs out of the limbic system
into changing climates
of sex, hunger, offspring care.
Play outside, my mother scolded.
I was fertilized by early cultivars
of pasteurized milk
and river muck
yolking my hands
with ventilated eagle eggs.
We hate the insects.
We hate them
under the streetlights
with their primitive foreshadows.
is perfectly safe. When people
try to commit suicide by drinking it,
they fail regularly.
Dimethylphosphate, Urine, 2.6 ug/L
Erin and I cough differently. She leans into her sleeve encouraging replacement leaders. I am less sanguine about stems and must cover my mouth during toasts. She is shade tolerant and takes her asthma for a run in ravines ravaged by dog-eared understories. I cough to test my inguinal narratives for spring on the automated blossoms bearded with hair triggers. She coughs at the same time as applause, sensitive to the seedless struggle for dominance that defines our clingstone generation. Uncontrollably, I blow out other people’s candles, a holdover from a grey-toothed childhood spent biting into birthday cakes packed with nickels. She is generous to a fault and cuts to the chase with a cocktail sword, hands on her hips like the last native variety pulled up by free trade. Post-nasal, I reverse into parking spaces, wiping out the element of surprise. Dry and persistent, she encrypts her skin with moisturizers. Cacophony is inflammation. The residue of every suppressant we’ve ever tried keeps unbuckling around us like a bronchus. We listen at night for the croup of airguns keeping the migratory birds from the orchards. For the moment, our kids sleep through it in the next room.
PARTS PER BILLION
Polybrominated diphenyl ether, IUPAC # 100, Plasma, <0.02 ug/L
Polybrominated diphenyl ether, IUPAC # 15, Plasma, <0.03 ug/L
We want revolution, but it’s raining and Clayton has his sweatshirt on, the one with thumb holes burnt through the cuffs. Our high-schooled commitment is diluted by aerosolized anthems squelching from wet leaves and rotten stumps at the edge of his parent’s farm. I can tell, by the point of his thumbs, he’s not really into this. It barely burned when I lit it. More of a shrugged smoulder, more like seeing your parents have sex; not explosive revolt, but the sudden, sodden commitment to an obvious and pedestrian crossing. I have what’s left of the thing jammed down my boot when his mother appears. She’s driving me home. “You know that’s really offensive,” she says. Her face stiffens in the maxed-out defog as we pass the conveyer belt factory at the edge of town. “You shouldn’t burn flags.” She’s trying hard not to look at me and I feel the cauterized nylon edges against my sock, the thin plastic souvenir pole pressed to my ankle. She thinks there’s something wrong with me but can’t say it. We pass the car dealership with its checkered pennants and sodium lights. It’s the year-end blow-out. The rain has ignited into snow.