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John Campion

  

Tigris and Euphrates

          Marshes of Tigris and Euphrates
cutters' rib
reed houses
float above mud islands.

A woman prepares
                      fire
feeds                  
           her ovens
bread.

Beating hands do not keep from the flats

men making super paths
          bulldoze
mangroves,
memory of hundreds of thousands;

some
                    wipe off the birds.

40 times the double-cross Valdéz
desert air smudges
black waters absorb white sun
           dolphin vortices
grebe and cormorant drown.

                     Crabs suck dark reservoirs.
Tongues
           from which no words come
reach out;

tide brings in the news
south to quick red shrimp.

For millennia
fish are trapped at the ebb.
No need to gather grasses
or lower nets in this
                      salt low sea.

                       The war is water.
Tube worms bend the verticals.
Hecatombs of plankton
         waste in the shade.

Coral stars
         await
the black death.

              Barracuda move
                             below    
one who rises in the sky will not speak.

Cuttlefish
flicker with heat.
                           Nothing
compared to passions

               above.
               Slick invasion
in breeding time.

The toilet takes two years to flush.

Urchins tear
platforms
              (anchored at seabed)
covered with algae and sponges.
Fish pulse
in dusky light.
Sea snakes wriggle the black.
                            An archway collapses-
                                             filterers
                                choke vomit,
detergents kill.

Toxins seep in crevices
to green turtle eggs-
soldiers remark
the musical ballet of tanks
like females 
                             leave tracks behind.

Her clutch
               hatch alone
suffocate on tar balls.

          Of great price our Pearl-
Virgins stiffen the thought;
effluvia tongues deeper.

                     Off shore

spring water rises.

Do not bother
to go fill
          your bottles.

       *            *            *

           Like Mussolini
he's draining the swamps.

Now we will not bomb
the dikes
diverting water
from marsh people
suffocating with dust.

 

 

Old Growth Music

          I

Old growth
music a barometer de-
                           scribes
a score
            not unlike
            Stockhausen.

Each
            over time
in
habits
                  a physical
and acoustic niche,
a band
and frequency:

you the morning show
                          I the noon
           she the evening.

                               Mus[-]k
                               or urine
             marks
       the boundaries.

          II

Sound of an elephant
                      heart
shaking air
is silence
                      to us.)

Wine-dark water
         layers
wild diversity.

Before
air filled with frog pipes,
crocodilians grunted

miles wide.

Pollutants
           diminish

oceanic sound,
            the biota above
                            and
                           below.

          III

                                                                  World a tuning fork
                                                                              voices full of
                                                                                            water-
                                                                                        fall
                                                                              head

"lift-up-over sounding"
               canopies
                      tree

               The Mu-
                                    sic endangered

                     Religion
          thief of thunder
                                    comes.

                                                              No one under 25 sings.


                                                                          The Riflebird has

                                                                          NOTHING

                                                                          to say.

   

MacDowell Fellow John Campion has written several books of poetry, including Squaring the Circle (winner of the Blue Star Foundation Award), Where Three Roads Meet (coauthored), Tongue Stones (winner of the Austin Book Award and The Violet Crown Award), and Sippapu the Kiva an Inverted Bat. He made the first English translation of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's magnum opus El Sueño and collaborated with his brother, composer Edmund Campion, on the musical oratorio, L'Autre, which was premiered in 1999 at Radio France's Presence Festival and recently selected at the prestigious Bourges Festival of Electroacoustic Music. In addition, Campion was a founder of both The Open Theatre and Ecotropic Works (which holds that for a culture to be healthy it must exist as if in an ecological niche, and thereby, relate appropriately with all the fields of forces of nature). Some of these ideas are explored in his recent edition of Ecotropic Works, a multilayered, interdisciplinary anthology, containing the diverse works of many significant writers exploring the relationship between culture and the environment.
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