Robert McKay's first collection is Cities of rain (Honeybee Press, 2012). Home is the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont. His poetry has recently appeared in OccuPoetry, Siren, Measure and others, and has been set to music in the Vermont Poetry and Song Project. His criticism has appeared in Visions of Joanna Newsom (Roan Press, 2009) and The Occupied Oakland Tribune. He was an undergraduate fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 2008. He is associate editor of The Salon, a scrappy handmade journal of established and emerging writers.
Theses concerning the undead
a. On trains
Trains congregate under a sky stitched together
out of insect wings,
cry out with seabird cries
in their night flocks.
Under a thin, under a stretched wind.
Under a precarious dome of hair-fine bones.
Trains delicate, like moving cemeteries,
circulating at the bottom of the sea.
b. On the relationship of trains to zombies
O the luminous ghoul fishes;
O the undersea circuit of the Ballet Company of the Undead!
O memories of my youth, of somnolent forests of seaweed,
of ghouls, of zombies! Of trains,
circulating like ferrous blood, thundering in tunnels!
O swaying, rubbery horde, O legion.
c. Memories of youth
The youth with the assault rifle,
the youth with the trembling lip.
The unyoung gunning down the undead in flickering waves.
They stumble forward like the waves of the sea,
breaking, sobbing against the stones of the unyoung.
From the unbeginning the youth walks toward the unfuture,
walks straight into the waves of the dream until he disappears.
As trains arrow forth from all quarters,
History pulls the flickering sheet of locusts over the sun.
d. The end
Anatomical gallery, occupied territory
Carnal installation of finitude - Badiou,
"Third Sketch for a Manifesto of Affirmationist Art
Looking aside from the canvas of unravelled Flesh,
Anatomic anatman found collage of meat, froth-limned lascerate
of Science, "one" hears the familiar algorhythmic Cricket
one's phone makes on demand, demanding one answer.
One answers, one raises the Frozen
glass brick of meadow to one's ear.
One exits the glass brick full of mummies, of sarcophagai; one slips
between red brooding walls looming out
into Nature, that more patient aesthete,
as seen through the park's curated
collection of trees. Some coal-black, wet,
some still Burning. Their still flesh-fountains Frame
the light boiling down to syrup in the west,
the West exhaling pennants of smoke;
the vapors catch the thrice-
removed burning of the Streets'
sweated-out light. In the park's
embrace of relative dimness, Solitudes pass
tethered to telephones, anchored
to someplace Other than here, some voice somewhere
amidst Another evening, and one also
is anchored in one's turn, by one's golden eyechains, to the votive light
of the Small, Cold, infinitely accepting, absorbent
screen on which one writes, that screen Soft and smooth
as a wax tablet, as a shifting brick of light among
the city's million pavingstones, gaseous Rock,
telegraph machine for penpals on another planet.
At the zenith the darkness
Nature blinks Off. Art, behind one through plate glass,
In the Park the tents close in around one, breathing, accusing one like a Herd
If the grass
If the grass were not alliterative, if it did not
echo the same and the same and the same fricatives over the rolling dirt,
if the grass
did not wave at the atmosphere retreating
into perspective, into History;
did not suffice, did not suffuse,
did not suffuse space, the watery bleeding-out of space, with its elixir of thorns.
did not enter my flesh. Did not enter my spirit. If spirit
were not not, were not a word for something about the flesh.
If it were a word instead for something about thorns.
From Cities of rain
for Ariel Wengroff, after two versions of Lorca
Clock covered with, or made of
Clock like a fruit
with a pit of despair.
A slowly rotating pith.
Measure of the wind
and of the sweet wind of decay
blowing, blowing, inside its placid face.
Rationer of flame.
From Cities of rain
These watersheds hide
for Estefania Puerta
geometries of rust,
the bridges swathed in fog and ambient ice.
The river's industrial breath.
Silted speech. Silted memory.
On the crumbling concrete bank,
you draw your trumpet like a sword.
Flocks of brass-plated cries weep away,
joining the river's freight of voices.
Flock of leaves.
Your mournfully shaking words.
These patiently stampeding herds of ice.
Paradox: fog desiccates your voice.
Your voice, full of symmetrically bird-shaped holes.
Each bird is a window on a desert.
These watersheds hide many things;
the endless brass glitter
of the desert behind the holes in your voice
is merely one of them.
From Cities of rain
arrives like a serrated wing.
Cuts the medium on which it is inscribed.
Cuts the fabric of the real.
Arrives in the walled absence where the self is not.
Cuts the costume of the self off a mannequin of air.
Cuts the white light of a voice into unwound strips of color.
Arrives in a red, in a desert-shaped room.
Aboard the absence of a train.
Aboard a column of air that bores through the bedrock of the city.
Aboard a flock of inverted birds.
Birds that migrate underground.
The poem leaves in you a flock of bird-shaped holes.
From Cities of rain
Bohemian masque @ the End of History
costumes flayed off,
on the front porch in the smolder of
morning & drink
coffee in the obliterated cityscape
re: this re: that re: the sun as the sun drags
out of the radioactive haze & we wait
to the morning sirens calling like Birds of escape
like Planes of escape
to no one
(calling our Names)
we don't answer we pret-
not to hear we talk re: this re: that
re: the Weather perhaps
to mention its nuclear wintriness its globally warmed
Heat its casual
at the Speakeasy After the Apocalypse
we dressed our finest
the bartenders all wore gasmasks the guests
dressed as undead flappers radioactive pimps
Through the evening's scavenged Gates of broken glass
did not foment revolution they did
talk politics not theorize not talk
History that hasn't happened yet they
talk in their Voices but in Voices
from a cylindrical wax museum
from a vinyl Grave
This morning after the End we sit
of nuclear ash from the coffee
although we are supposed to be young this is the end
of our lives
this is the End
of History we were born just before
While we were still sleeping the sleep of
the End of days was declared, the Golden,
everyone became children
& slept &
the beautiful dream History
(from which we can't
then there was no more Then
& only now
do we awake & realize this is the End
is this the End but it has been the End
since 20 years ago since we
our Beginning our Middle have been inside the End
this really is the End
the End of the End
Then the crows rise like an army over the