Jeanne Larsen

Shadows Rippling on Bodhisattva Run

2 hundred thousand souls all still
in a rush downstream from Hiroshima.
Over the gorge,
5 bats wheel
like the ones carved in a temple beam
below the hill of graves in Nagasaki.

Ceci n’est pas une ghazal

Charcoal ovens in grave-rows: a rainforest’s smoldering heart
aerially viewed. Just fashionable nihilism, pal? Nuts to that.
Intel or intellect—take your pick. Deepfakes, both of ‘em. True
this: the first itchy apes followed desire lines this-a-way, that.
A nation too big for anyone’s britches. Which path through the maze
when none leads to cheese? Bullying? Hatred? Ouch. Smell a rat?
50K years since we crushed the Neanderthals. Pliant or scrappy,
either way: shooting fish in the gene pool. In the locus of caveats.
In Newark, they finally fixed the lead pipes. Passed out polyethylene
bottles slosh-full of micro-beads. Whoa—let’s run the metrics on that.
Tariffs rattle like sabers. On its pad, an Iranian missile blooms smoke.
Balochistan test launches go silky-smooth. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!
Does migration require a long stride? Thirst? Courage? Homo habilis,
handy & squat, stayed put, near reliable water. Died out, thanks to that.
Manic flurries of tweety-birds. Of performatives. Hot neurons kindled
a panicked & toxic attack. Did the Notaracist-in-Chief really do that?
Jungly sweat glands. A green lung still gasping 8 distichs later.
Carbon sink gone to Hades. The mine-cage canary just ate the cat.
Gunboats up the Chang Jiang. Perry cannons into Japan. Yo, Orient!
Buy our lamp-oil, opium, burgers, civilization. We’ll take tea for our habit.
Also: algebra, art-objects, landfill-space, rugs, sugar-cane workers, a few
dabs of Confucius, engineers, Buddhisms, verse forms, & I-dunno-what.
What’s the pain-shadow under these flippant scenes? What’s the obscene
anthropocene through-line? Pallid faces gone ape with guilt: yeah, that.
My undifferentiated non-neurotypical syndrome kicks in. I’d rather
do ecstasy. Go there, I mean: image on image, line on line, tit for tat.
Ghalib, forgive me my trespass: I hereby order this poem into being.
We’re animal angels clipping our own wings. Well, shit, why not?

Jeanne Larsen’s latest book, What Penelope Chooses: poems (2019), won the Cider Press Review Book Award. She has published two other books of poetry, two collections of translated poems by medieval Chinese women, and four novels. Jeanne was the inaugural Jackson Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University. More at