Jules Boykoff

Ode to Working Group II

“When the seagulls follow a trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” – Eric Cantona

a flock of sandpipers in the freshly flooded marsh

a host of oaks tilting toward recognition

a hundred herons poking out from the muck

an avalanche of stones multiplying in the mountains

an eagle hunkered on a branch in the fog

another attack by a smack of jellyfish

another urban heat island on fat slabs of cement

a pika in the mine of our changing climate

a pelican hunched along the iron tracks

a solitary raven in the stone-gray sky

a thimble of ginger to settle her cough

a thousand catastrophes blooming under the sun

autumn brought ferocious dreams of fire

bald eagles decimating colonies of cormorant

bats flapping before a mountainous full moon

because not all certainty is created equal

because some people like it the way it is

crick glistening beneath a thundering sun

death did not mean the end of the relation

drought so bad they prayed for hurricanes

“Finally, he said with satisfaction, it’s an earthquake.”

fire thrumming heat through the peat underground

fists of iced oats beneath a half-moon sky

flames leapt across the crowns of trees

glacial lakes where ice vacates space

he called it “a perfectly safe pipeline”

he lived in the city when it went underwater

hurricanes swirling from the earth’s rotation

I have a joke I’ve been trying to tell you

I’ve tried so hard to mend these regrets

in the abundance of water, this chalky land

islands firing from the center of the earth

it takes six days to cut down a mountain

like a full-grown woodpecker who keeps on pecking

like scratches and scars in a glacier’s wake

more paper permits punching holes in the seabed

my anxiety rippling like a rusty river

my mind a permafrost region of sorts

my mouth a graveyard of past indiscretions

my theories all crammed in a cold metal box

refinery flares hidden by the curve of the earth

she snapped photos of things I just couldn’t see

shrugging my own private glacier-to-slush pill

smacks and smacks of jellyfish clogging the water

solar panels at sunrise, wind turbines by night

something about the barn’s feathery weathering

stop signs flapping like flags in a haboob

suppressing cirrus clouds on the meeting’s agenda

that solitary daisy in a field of green

that’s when I started to notice the birds

the Cascades that spiny range to the west

the fallen snow made the clear-cut clearer

the ruffle of a scrub jay’s wings on landing

they developed their film in the mighty Rheine

though the bus rolled off, I kept on waving

tornados not just columns of air in rotation

torrents of rain—islands washed to the sea

two geese ensconced on a column for power

‘Virtue’s no business model,’ he said on the air

we didn’t do anything for just one reason

we measured our time through artificial snow

wet, wet weather—season’s cadence out of sync

what touched the river must be washed today

when flattery’s no antidote to calm the roiling sea

when not taking sides meant taking the wrong one

when red-winged blackbirds rained from the sky

when the earth’s chassis starts buckling under

when the ground held firm with the promise of profit

when the reset button cannot be punched

where green meant a chemical, a flavor, a flow

where one tectonic plate pressed under another

where rock dust tempered the explosive load

where we try to live in the Cascadian Zone

where wind turbines swirl with the heat of the future

wild, wild weather not jarring the mind

Williams’ fleshpale smoke in the brickstacked sky

Wishbone in a chicken—the luck of other lands



Alone, alone for the tears all gathered

A grainy shelf of sand on a bed of concrete

A trove of tiny shells strung along the seashore

Arm in arm in arm beneath disheveled bevel of sky

Cervantes called poetry an incurable malady

Colloquia, chemistry, the curvatures of time

Franco not swayed nor moved by music

Grace hailed through restraint, persistence, will

He looked too young to look that old

His life an embroidery—tightly threaded and decorative

Leaves flaring and falling under the thrum of the sun

Lone saxophone belting in a Barcelona park

Miró brought blades of grass to Paris for clarity

Orwell called the system a swindling machine

Our books caressed by a thousand hands

Our words thunderbolts flopped in a trough

Picasso’s mom gave Miró a cake to take to Paris

Small knots of men, arms flapping in the park

The crisp crackle of fireworks in the wake of the win

The streets snapping back with each Barça golaso

We nibbled baguette in the small hours of morning

We wrested those moments from a swirling tide

When the good stuff’s stuffed in an appendix at the end

When we nestled in the knowledge we were wholly unknown

Where ambulances bellowed like a band of bagpipes

Where pacing meant lacing the speed and calm

Where tremors rippled down thin strips of diction

While parrots traced parabolic ribbons in the sky

Sources: Ode to Working Group II

• Vito Acconci, “Plot,” 1974.

• Kathleen Hennessey, “Mitch Daniels Blasts Obama for ‘Trickle-down Government’,Los Angeles Times, 24 January 2012.

• Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Summary for Policymakers,” in: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2007, pp. 7-22.

• On the Media, “Is Huffpost Good for Journalism?” National Public Radio, 29 April 2011.

• William Todd Schultz, Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Sources: Bienvenidos

• Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (New York: Penguin, 2003 [1605, 1615]).

• Pablo Neruda, Spain in our Hearts: Hymn to the Glories of People at War, Trans. Donald D. Walsh (New York: New Directions Books, 2005 [1973]).

• George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (New York: Penguin, 1989 [1938]).