Self-portrait as a Gene Sequence

If this transmission should find you now continents removed
from my last confirmed location, now in your era of no-go
glaciers where your people tinder the jungle and marsh-make
their tundra and you’re reading this there on your screen porch
in the Tropic of Glasgow where you awoke this morning
to what seemed at first a loon beneath your pillow
but turned out to be an errant tsunami siren looning
through an open window from a tranquil valley nearer the coast—
If you have on a sundress in curl-kinking humidity,
in dense air greasing your brown skin as puffed sails bob,
dunce caps on a firth beneath contrails of space planes
too distant to hear as children ricochet around your yard
in polymer rompers when the youngest, the big-nosed,
sentimental one with a freckle on his right nostril, with a hint
of a lisp and a penchant for ketchup on his crackers
stops his slug hunt in the garden to peer at the city centre
in the lowlands through kilometres of smog—If he interrupts
your bagel and reading to ask what the cranes down there
are building or how the cranes are built—If he asks
about the invention of metallurgy or the inception of glass—
Why is there brick, steel, and siding? Why is there duct tape
instead of nothing?—as you’re reading this there in that nation
World Cups and World Cups hence, and you find yourself uncertain
of how to begin, then hand him a hammer. Show him how
his elbow should make like a lever, his wrist like a hinge.
Instruct him to mix his water into concrete, not the concrete
into water. He should stagger his cinder block and toe-nail
his jack studs. You should soap-test his gas lines, pressure-test
his valves, trip every circuit before he messes with any electric,
then tell him how the builders are lesser than the building,
the toolmakers lesser than the tools. No one will look
on his works and despair, but he might make time and a half
evenings and weekends. He might manage vision and dental
and retire with pension. He’ll certainly drink too much,
but all that will come later. Now smooth the cowlick jutting
from the cyclone of hair at the crown of his head like humans do.
Don’t mention the rest of us punched silent rivets in his cell walls,
us proteins that rebar his brickface, that buttress is animal architecture
now warm, now capable, now built of the junkyard dead.
The Tallest Building in America
Jaswinder Bolina
Bolina_cover

The Tallest Building in America

Jaswinder Bolina

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