sporklet 16
Brent Armendinger
Acer Saccharum

In my borrowed hand
I hold a borrowed
almost infinity. How
it bulges around
the rot in the middle
of the Anthropocene.


Explain to me
why I am human
and not a leaf
curling in on itself
until all that’s left
is light. The lifeboats
drop and drop and populate
the ground, still gleaming
with green stars, with letters
yet to be delivered.


A bone exposed.
What disaster, what
scattered from this place
and came back animal?
What hollowed out
a home here, tied
around such scar?
I think of how
the far ones mend
the near ones. I think
of how mortality : the word
enough : the little red
blush marks surrounding
your name.


The leaves overlap
but their translucent mouths
crumble into gravity, into
who were you when you were
the outline of my veins. 
Like a Venn diagram,
a shadow forms a third.
The spit of wishing
dries but we keep
opening, emitting sound

until we recompose.
The Other Side of Power

I’m losing count
of my breath again,
looking up to find
a loon, floating
on the cold surface
of my thinking.
Its tremulous falsetto
traces a blue line, cleaving
but not cracking
the wet mirror,
the lexicon of clouds.


Even when mind
is elsewhere,
the human brain
is mostly water.
Its impulses evaporate
into microscopic
histories. The sky
will sometimes carry them
hundreds of miles 
before they collide
with rocks.


By the seventies,
the clouds above
the Adirondacks
were sick with side effects
from power plants
and car exhaust. People
started to notice the rain
was poking holes
in the filaments lining
fish gills, in the community
of water, in the available food
for the bird whose body
rhymes with our only
natural satellite, a light
we cannot see.


The salves
inside of sometimes
there is a bit of useful legislation
helped the waters
to slowly help the fish
and loons return.
But wailing calls
still rhyme with far-off
lungs, with the branching passages
into which the damage
is drawn. They rhyme
with the ribcages
of workers exposed
to ash and asbestos,
with the side effects of power.


In the mid-nineties,
the free market tried to scrub
the aftermath from the sky,
but kept exhuming the Tertiary
and setting it on fire.
The new clouds began
to cough up their histories
a little closer to the source.
In the company town
of Cheshire, the residents
started to complain
about a mysterious birdless
feather: it hovered above them
and stained their exhalations
blue. For $20 million,
American Electric Power
bought their silence
and most of their houses.


I sit inside of error
after error while the loons
congregate near the shore:
a singing harbor. As if
they had always been there,
sleek grey heads adorning
sky, waiting to be reflected
in the reflection of the forest
on the other side
of power. I look down
and the floorboards swerve
and race away from me,
while the lake climbs
up and down the trees, stripes
of mirror seeping through

the permanence.
Consequence or Brightness

You could call these yellow flowers
that fall from my lips
Ginestra, or you could call them
words. The mirror,
sculpting itself into gravity,
geology. The buzzing
of the far-off desert inside me
unlocks itself into
petals, one fanlike and larger
than the others,
two bent in on themselves,
and one, rising from the center,
like a tongue
withholding secret fire.


How do you separate a mountain
from the colors that cling to it?
Eyes too bright to look at
open to the point of
falling apart, like this mountain
that bathes me. You could call it
tinnitus, the music
you hear when you enter
silence, the limits of the body,
staining ground.


John Cage tried to throw his ego
over the anechoic mountain.
Every mountain opens
the place where hearing
fails me. The not yet uttered
and the desires
darken in the center where
you labor to recognize
the music of your own
body – the nervous
system and the circulatory system.
And then forget what you
recognize as you. The color
inside them breaking.


My beard is getting white
as if a cloud fell out of my mouth
and refused to become a word.
The moon sleeps below
the surface. Around my ears
where I try to flatten
sky, the sounds
stay closed and bury
their scents, my hair is gray.
Mortality is climbing
further up the woody
rungs. The blood
I can’t unravel. Its echo

leaves red frequencies.
Prunus Serotina

Every clock that hangs
from the branches
ticks in a different color.


Yellow sinks deeper
into now.
It’s half past honey
on the west-facing
limbs, a muted
orange. When I first
encountered it,
this tree
was full of birds.


The trunk split
and scrawled
the letter V, short
for versus, in the air.
Somehow a word
which first meant towards
became a wound.


Around the jagged
edge, I tied a string.
Every color
an upside-down why.
Every waxy echo
of the sun.


Some leaves soften
in the process
of what was it
the wood wanted
to tell me. When I
put my ear
to the ground
I heard the light
curling, the last
breath of summer.

I was only trying
to remember
its name: the dead parts
and the alive parts,
the translucent hours
that spread
from leaf to leaf,


Brent Armendinger is the author of Street Gloss (The Operating System, 2019), a work of site-specific poetry and experimental translation, and The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying (Noemi Press, 2015), both of which were finalists for the California Book Award in Poetry. He is also the author of two chapbooks, Undetectable (New Michigan Press, 2009) and Archipelago (Noemi Press, 2009). Brent’s poems and translations have recently appeared in Anomaly, AsymptoteBennington ReviewConjunctionsGhost Proposal, The Georgia Review, Green Mountain Review, Interim, and Tinfish. He has been awarded residencies and fellowships at Blue Mountain Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Community of Writers. Brent teaches creative writing at Pitzer College and lives in Los Angeles.