Dusk, During Harmattan

You want to say it is like
a fog in winter, the road
is a deep, dark river
that has nothing to do
with Jordan, the sluggish
currents of the blood.

Your presence is like an oil
slick, some white, frothy
patch of phosphate-laden
detergent that thickens the
surface, fouls bird wings.

That there is no interface
between earth and sky
where angels might breed,
leave their spawn to hatch
from oxygen-fed reeds.

The trees thrust their roots
in the air, seem cauterized,
teased away from the dead,
grey flesh of the sky,
hang their own seed pods

like so many thieves. Cars
grope through centuries of
bad timing and come upon others
suddenly, as a man comes upon
his reflection in a dark room.

Potiskum-Maiduguri highway, Nigeria, 1981

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Dusk, During Harmattan”?

Hormonal urges mostly. Occasionally, a decent protest lyric (“Well, come on all you big strong men/ Uncle Sam needs your help again.) 😉

What poetic techniques did you use in “Dusk, During Harmattan”?

Iambic pentameter or tetrameter, mostly. Various obsessive forms: sonnets, ballad stanzas,etc. Then Margaret Atwood and J. Michael Yates showed me the power of concision and the show-don’t-tell approach of deep imagism, symbolism, surrealism. I became a typical West coast surrealist for a while, writing gnomic landscape metaphysica: probably a clue that I had f***-all to say. 😉

This poem “Dusk, During Harmattan” originally appeared in Fictional Patterns. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 99 (Winter 1983): 31.

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