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Malbolge: the libretto to Code~dIsSoNaNcE~REVERIE

                         WHAT SONG 
had me a reverie there was a continuum from divinity
to Malbolge, a kind of slumming passage, lined with code—
some elegant as a currawong song, some raw as a grackle’s dissonance.
what delicious departures, the passing from one to the next.
what songs those black birds sing.
             * * *
stony the bitter road we trod to the chast’ning—
the rod rise high as the song of the steady slaughtered
                                             the weary & silent
                       let our blood,
                       let our blood.
lift ev’ry sigh
ev’ry sky watered with tears.
                       let our blood.
                       let our blood.
the path stray from our feet,
cast us to gloomy places where we met the chast’ning:
          the shadowed world
                                of the rolling sea.
                       let our blood.
                       let our blood.

the world drunk with the wine of it—

             * * *
                                         I don't feel like singing no more no more.
         how in the heck they gon find my neck if I don’t sing no more?
                                         how in the heck I don’t feel like singing
         no more no more. say what left could my breath be for, be for
                                         if I ain’t fixt to sing no more?
I was a bird of a sort of a bird. yes we was.
a bird like a clock, we was full of cog. the cogs
were in us where we hadn’t them before,
& I—our own fingers hadn’t cogged us inside up,
though. I was not in a cage for a cage takes you out
of the world. yes yes it does. what it does
by way of, in the way a cage comes between birds & the world.
& the world was on me like feathers. pinions pinned into
me being sort of a bird though not in a cage we weren’t.
the cogs weren’t ours neither
& I don’t feel like singing no more.
            “then dance” the clock makers said, winding &
minding us to wind, & we wound
                      lest our feet—
                      lest our feet—
                      stray.                             but
                                                                   when I don’t feel like winding now—

though/so the dissonance strikes like a clock chiming time
like clockwork the cogged heart wound to cry out its hung wooden house—
but I don’t feel like telling you what time it is now.


Douglas Kearney has published six books, including the award-winning poetry collection "Buck Studies" (Fence Books); libretti, "Someone Took They Tongues" (Subito); and criticism, "Mess and Mess and" (Noemi Press). His newest collection, "Sho" (Wave), is forthcoming next spring. A Whiting Foundation and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly awardee with residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others, Kearney teaches creative writing at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.

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