Congotronic by Shane Book

Shane Book reads a selection of poems from his latest collection, Congotronic, forthcoming in September from University of Iowa Press.

African Evening

I had a thing for mange.
Her skin was fluorescent with it.
The open canoe made smooth, curling sounds.
It smelled like the man I am told is mother.
Mother sped his brain on pills.
He limped.
He gripped mother’s leg and begged.
The long open canoe had a wind inside
and a yellow sky and a smell of mother.
I went to the docks to pray.
The trees were yellow, the trees were orange
and her panties had been cut away.
I had a thing for docks and praying on the little bronze pipes.
I stained them with my fluid.
I had a bald thing, a bashed in thing, a thing for her grease.
In my arms I held an end of the long canoe and slit it
sternum-first into the sea.

World Town

Entirely windless, today’s sea; of these waters’ many names
the best seemed “field-of-pearl-leaves,” for it smelled like the air
in the house he built entirely of doors: pink school door,
gold of the burnt hotel, two old church blues, the abandoned
bank’s steel doors singular and immovably wedged over
the family’s heads though as with everything corroding
the sense of themselves slipping away in the heat,
falling through the day’s brightness the way soldiers
once fell upon him walking home with a bucket of natural
water as he had been recalling the town square
before the tannery’s closing: he and his father shopping
on horseback in the noon Praça where they first saw
a man crouched under a black shroud, what his father called
a camera. His father forgot the incident immediately, but
for years the man asked whomever if they remembered
a camera, vegetable stalls, the butcher holding the cleaver,
a horseshoeing shop, purple berries, the long cassava valley haze,
fishnets, a few crab baskets and browning nets
drying by the ice cream shop, seven taverns,
a small, unused ferry terminal, a map on its wall outlining
the island in blue, the names Good Dispatch, Lover’s Bridge
pointed to by a mermaid of skin whiter than anyone
on this island of Angola’s descendants, her red hair.

They Are Exploding Just Feet Above The Desert Sands

from The Collected Novellas of Gilbert Ryle

Node where may none die poor, almond,
mundane, but in this very Yes keep the body
at a distance. One Satan-boat cuss after
another, in swaths unamaranthine runs
the body deep in as a resent is. Pseudo-lore,
lead dollar, sin desk and sword o’ smoke
so the body all tapered. The body would
lead well, if he on tender gears, spectral
switches, were to lay ever a sober bray.
A bad day for a grim taker, a serious gas.
Iced-in, the tabernacle.


Flagelliform #22

I’m in the big stick and the big stick is in me. The walls are porous with mold and inactivity. The black-and-tans are foamy round the rim and cool and rich and short-haired and well-trained and on patrol. Flammable hydrocarbon. It is the fourth month in the French revolutionary calendar, always. No one knows what happened to the fifth. Flammable hydrocarbon jelly. I knew once but my hack became a habit and I coughed. In here they teach us how to move our hips, some dance called the Black Bottom and some dance called the Gimp. We like it. I am unsure if there is another bivalve in the joint. Just plain happy to have the help. Flammable hydrocarbon jelly as condiment. Funnily enough my rusted stenography has finally come in handy. Oooh, oooh the walls are ever so rounding. See? Dear big stick on me like a hurt. Sometimes I forget about adjusting my I-beam thinking cap and I have to move out and bivouac it in the open gummy terrain. There are seeds and roving packs of clouds—I stay out of their way and they leave me alone. Flammable hydrocarbon jelly as condiment as confinement. According to the knobs in the wall it is somewhere between Dec.21 and Jan.19. I don’t know which way South is, which is in a way a relief. Pleased to report haven’t been picking at what am still convinced is an intimate case of keratosis. O’ Icecap, I am icebound and there is a clunk somewhere in my lazier eye. I glanced away from my firing pin for one wobbly second (one!) and it kerplunked. Gone. Nada. Finito. How ya like me now. The cylindrical nature of days here does that to a body. I long for my firing pin, my fireside chats and a glass. Any type of glass will do, for any type of two-way chew. Flammable hydrocarbon jelly as condiment as confinement as document. Weird to be so intimate with the weather.

Excerpted from Congotronic with permission of University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2014 by Shane Book.