Three Poems by Michael Bazzett

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The Anecdote of the Hermit

The hermit had been turning over rocks all morning. He poked under sunbleached wood, nosed into arid caves, looking for the as yet undiscovered part of himself called the soul. He could feel it hovering nearby. Its ache extended from him like a phantom limb.

It would be good to find it, he thought. Why else wander unbathed in the heat, eating locusts with their tinny aftertaste?

Or so his earthen mother seemed to insist when one ear was placed to her grassy plain.

Translation can be difficult when gleaning messages from the ground. The dearth of words allows for a more immediate exchange, but it’s possible she merely mentioned bison beyond the horizon. After picking the stems and grit from his ear, he wasn’t sure.

Then there is the question of the pleasure the hermit receives from his cock when he slips it into the ring to slice another bird into something like feathered ribbons. He knows this doesn’t exactly square with the hermit lifestyle but insists the sport has its subtleties.

Is it all a gamble? becomes his primal question mostly because he happened to ask it — but it is not compelling to the complacent majority, and thus he never receives his license allowing him to transition from hermit to prophet.

So, did he find his soul in the end, this hermit? Or did he secretly name some other invisible thing, like the wind, so as not to be declared wrong?



The Ambiguity Farm 

They were preparing for a record-breaking yield before the rains came, nearly eight inches in thirteen days. Sometimes it came down so hard the sky went white; the horizon disappeared.

The evacuations were orderly. If you can say anything about the good people in that valley, it is that they understand the rule of law.

The waters crested twenty-four feet above flood stage. The brown current slid just beneath the eaves of houses, wrinkling around downspouts, kissing gutters. Tree limbs spun lazily in the water, green leaves clinging to their branches. The whole landscape seemed to be unrooted and sliding southward.

The farmers watched via television broadcasts in the emergency shelters, their faces as impassive as oak furniture. There’s not much that needs explaining to an ambiguity farmer. They have the patience of dried bones.




the earth shook
and mountains were carried

into the midst of the sea—
those who sought

refuge in caves drowned—
so much stone into water

the sea level rose—
tidal charts were adjusted—

strange acoustical soundings
noted by whale-watchers—

the seafloor so unsettled
submerged ears caught

the grating clack and grind
sounding through cold

water for months afterward—
the earth gritting its teeth—

a San Mateo man sank
microphones and found

a pattern in the chatter
of rock whetted on other rock—

a channel was established
for the stream—

persistent as the arrhythmic
grunting of swine—

yet played over loudspeakers
it calmed mobs—

when the mountains finally
settled people kept

on with their business
and once again the earth

grew deceptively quiet.




Michael Bazzett’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, 32 Poems, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Best New Poets. He is the author of The Imaginary City (OW! Arts, 2012) and The Unspoken Jokebook (OW! Arts, 2014). His verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2015. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.

Photo credit: Justin in SD via photopin cc

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