Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Expanded Poetics Feature—Issue 62, March 2016)

Adam Dickinson
Three Pieces

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.


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.

Be alive

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.

Our solution

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.


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.