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Arranging the Blaze by Chad Sweeney

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The poetry of Chad Sweeney is exuberant, imagistic, and prophetic. It locates a "critical moment" of the ineffable that would be inexpressible, had it not been so beautifully expressed: "the last hawk in the net of his eye." Prophetic means of the world -- "the median burns with oleander from Miami to LA" and "the beer tastes of uranium" -- but also touched by the marvelous ("the fire is folded inside its wood"). This is a poetry of awakening, of coming into knowledge. We are near the beginning and the end, but in a curiously real place where you can hear the white teeth of a bull pull at the grass. -- Paul Hoover

 

 

The Navajo Poet

for Sherwin Bitsui

 

He spoke from the back room of a storm 
where sky fires revolved around a ship's mast.

The Golden Fleece was a thing made of words, 
the wool a man grows 
to warm himself in the blue snow of desert mesa.

Nations disappeared

in search of this, 
crows belled from the eaves 
rang only 
for the guilty. Even their shadows

left fingerprints along our vertebrae.

Corner stores staggered to Route 66 
to thumb a ride 
from the ghosts of coyotes in gravel trucks.

Citizens pinched money between their eyelids. 
In the drying hands of butchers 
the bone saw rattled with bridges.

A shepherd sang from far away,
a lizard born of solar wind 
crept inside the well of a cactus to sleep.

Beggars founded their own city 
in the long median that burns with oleander 
from Miami to LA.

The beer tasted of uranium. Flint Wing 
auctioned the Milky Way's pelt 
for a dawn-streaked pontiac

with a full tank of gas.

 

The Welders

Black Rock Desert, Nevada

 

I watch the welders make the carousel
angular on one knee, atop a ladder, 
amidst flame and their own private cloud

of dust or smoke 
or something else, like memory -- 
adjoining beams at right angles,

the joists, the wheels, 
one tongue of fire
like a word.

Under the masks 
they are magicians 
seaming sky

to mountain
with a red stitch, 
a green stitch.

I've seen their work before, 
wherever theory 
or bone

needed binding 
that would otherwise lie back 
in its own vein of ore,

iron 
among malachite, 
Irish among their dead,

scars beneath the breasts 
where the coal train crosses. 
Civilization

depends on this, 
this math 
at the wrist, at the mouth.


The welders are laughing now 
above their heavy 
boots, holding the cold beer

against the vein in their necks.
The carousel is turning. 
It's night! The dragons!

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