Ryan Clark

Fortress Fails: A Cow’s Retort¹

1.           The fortified field—ancient-lined with stone pulled up from volcanic history—walls
              our arrival into sun-warmed grasses. Our life is a mouth in wait. Incisor lops.

10.         The cow knows the score. The cow watches and moves, always held, vanity of
              the brand as a map of scar tissue, singed hair (there is no return), vanity of fence
              as a system a lexicon imagined logic of enclosure. The cow knows there is no
              way to shut the gate here.

20.        We receive what the earth yields to us and we give it as love our waste.

21.         The cow terraforms a field with e[i-e-i-o]missions. Toxicity is a matter of numbers
              when a field is used as a site of discharge, as a bin to feed.

22.        The scrub of our teeth over blades welcomes what remnants of waste and 
              whose. Hooves stomp, do not dig like nails uncovering the direction of water or
              what it carries sick to our regulated chewing and swallow of land.

23.         The cow welcomes contaminant into its stomachs. It passes unknown at the 
               technical and scientific levels.

24.         These walls were never made to shield us.

¹ Homophonic translation of excerpts from the 47th Portugal-U.S. Standing Bilateral Commission report

Air Base as Assonance2

1.         The first heft of a base is a messy realization of death as elemental to your 
            everyday enterprise of living. You estimate the size of your share of dead bodies.

9.         This pile is an impossible integer so you instead include just the illness and listen 
            for coughing fits.

10.       The hope of faux statements shows you are guarding the most rose-colored 
            home and so don’t know you are a posed flamethrower cut off from the blow of 
            the burn unit, its sorrowful moans not soaking the hold of your dome, no toll of 
            church bell or slow tableau of dark robes overflowing their woe in the road.

12.       Fuss deterred, you lust for stuff fit to the cuff of a uniform—what want you are.

² Homophonic translation of excerpts from the 49th Portugal-U.S. Standing Bilateral Commission report

Air Base as a Path Toward3

1.        Toward the sea from the flight check, from the sea toward the flight line—the 
           forward advance of the base as a crossroads.

20.     The base receives and expels, misses and longs for arrival yet is only ever on 
           the way to fill.

21.      The base took note of its shrinkage, its omission of family, and traced the 
           suturing of its rupture, empty folds tied back with a belt.

22.      The base is afraid of its future—sand covers so much it irritates its field of vision, 
            sand-scarred cornea, fine laceration (the Air Force calls them cuts). If forward, if 
            a word allows for a field to continue to feel like a home base and not just a 
            between site, a preservative.

23.      The base knows and does not know what floats like a covering of skin on the 
            water. The monitoring well is certain. The movement of release is certain. The 
            swell of the wave of cancer is certain. The emptying of fuel into pipes of fuel into 
            tanks into us into us is certain.

  29.     The base is on the way, uncertain the way to undo but to end.

3 Homophonic translation of excerpts from the 48th Portugal-U.S. Standing Bilateral Commission report

Ryan Clark is a documentary poet who writes his poems using a unique method of homophonic translation. He is the author of Arizona SB 1070: An Act (Downstate Legacies) and How I Pitched the First Curve (Lit Fest Press), and his poetry has appeared in such journals as DIAGRAM, Interim, SRPR, and The Offing. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his partner and two cats. You can find more about him and his work at ryanclarkthepoet.com.