you are in the diode archives spring 2010




From all over the planet, travelers bring home
reports of wondrous, unexpected beasts:
an ice-clear squirrel that leaks snow from its eyes,
rodents rat-like without being rats,
a giant-headed animal too majestic to be real,
the starving child with his belly bubbled out,
the same child looking at herself in the mirror,
the same child looking at herself in the mirror
& being photographed by a professional photographer.
Consider these beasts from the position of men
who believe that knowledge is order, one order.
Consider revelations from the position of the ark.


Some refuge in a pious agnosticism,
forever giddied by human research.
Some in the credulity of currents.
Snow falls & then rain falls
& then buildings are built
atop the puddles. The last trees
of a species are burnt by a wildfire
resulting from drought conditions
resulting from over-farming
resulting from the need & the need
for need. Habit becomes habitat.
Habit becomes destiny, an object,
to which each sample is applied
after it has been collected from its self.


Rivers of seawater
vein this ancient land.
One must buy oneself
a boat. The accommodations
are rough, the blood-sucking flies
are pestilent. But the traveler’s skin
is of red spun glass,
with eyes of metallic green.
We must induce ourselves
with the dried taxonomy
of spirits & skins,
the burnished fingerprint
of the mahogany armoire.
The traveler builds his boat
of mahogany & ideation.
The last two birds
of every species
are ensnared
by his billowing sail.


What seems mystically different in a museum
is by proxy of its demonstrativity. 
Tortoises the size of bears.
Elephants the size of dogs.
A map tattooed on the dead skin of a sailor,
labeling each port ‘here be monsters.’
Here is an animal both mammal & spice.
Here is the mirror that reflects another’s face.
That which a man does not understand
is the potential that one is not able
to build any thing he can imagine.


Where there is fresh water
there is not necessarily
the piles of bones
that become a house,
nor cutlery, nor words
like mayfly or dragonfly.

Where the traveler ventures
the ark follows. Or, perhaps,
the ark is always there,
shaking like an image
from a busted projector.

Piety invites. Faith unfolds.
There are lizards larger
than men waiting
just below the water line
to dispatch the non-believers.
But one must believe
to be bitten.


Special creation was one attempt
to understand the impossible,
that order emerges like a volcanic island
from the steaming brine.

That the chaos of who eats whom
can be understood &, & worse,
willed. But order does emerge:
the null-set is the most stable order.

Correctness is another attempt.
To be between oneself & another self
is the state of looking in the mirror,
the state of saying a word out loud.


It is an old rhetoric, the failed earth,
the soiled white sheet of presence.
How every generation
fails its antecedent.
As if we should believe in solids
like an epic generational novel.
As if we should even notice
the rim of minerals
at the bottom of the evaporated
glass of water. The species drop off
one by one. Language fails
to contain its meaning.
The paved paradise,
the silent spring,
the good old days.
What flat earths we walk with.
What constellations the stars intend.
The darling little insects
that sip from our eyes
know just as much as we do
about the failures of children.
It is an old rhetoric, like a last breath
exhaled into the bluest, radiant waters.


If you have good eyes
you can look out to the treelimbs
& see all the animals that have ever been there,
every sunning lizard, every flitting moth, every croaking egret.

If you have good ears
you can walk through the woods
& know every bird contained therein.

We contain them,
through the photographs,
through the chopped up islands of forest
discarded beyond the asphalt.

If you have very good skin you can stay inside
your clothes for your entire life.


What we become when we know something
is a piece of white paper that was once folded
& now lies flattened on the table.

When we truly know something
it means we can look at another person
& tell them that they do not know something.

I have a few facts: isotope, paper-clay, steel rim, kestrel.
Each fact ends an evolution.
Each set of hands that will stroke will strangle.



She is asked about a bomb placed in the prosecutor’s office. She denies this repeatedly, but she says, of course if I am beaten up I might admit to it. The interrogator then tells her to imagine that she is repeatedly flogged, what would you say. The prisoner says, yes I will admit to anything then. The interrogator says imagine you are really severely beaten, tell us how you planted the bomb. The interrogator says, now you are bleeding. She says, maybe I took it with Haj Ghassem. The interrogator says, imagine you are now beaten up even more, that you can’t tolerate the pain. The prisoner starts saying, maybe there is a car entrance. She is then pressed to tell the exact day when the bomb was planted. She is beaten up with a shoe. The interrogator says: You are like an insect, while we crush you. She is seen being beaten up again with the shoe. She still denies that she planted the bomb. The interrogator says: Once we flog you the version of events you give will be exactly what we want. Here we beat you so much in this very room where everything happens.



I have bound my demon.
I have bound his tongue.
I have bound the points of his teeth.

I have bound you to an enormous remote control.
I have bound you to all the shovels & all the hoes that never grow dirty.
I have bound you to the sun’s fat tears & to the invisible tears of the oceans.
I have tied you with an infinite number of electrical cords to the mountains & their collapsing tips & their explosions.
I have made you sit on the couch for so long that your skin has grown into the weave of the fabric & you are in essence a couch-man or couch-woman.
I have fed you daily of putrescence & sugar & we have strolled arm in arm along the promenade of the fecal river, where the fish eat their own scales in prayer.

There are seven wailing children. Girls.
There are fourteen wailing children. Boys.
The television is wailing all night long.
The seven girls & fourteen boys are carrying a woman above their heads & chanting her name. Her name is electrical, like the light of tumors.

The brickmaker has ceased making bricks for the building of wells.
The stars have stopped carrying their darlings in their fat tails.
There is a glowing light in the distance that growls like a billion hornets.

I will lay my bag down at the foot of the well.
I will lay my bag down at the foot of the well & then pick it up & lay it down at the foot of the gate.
I will lay my bag down at the foot of the well & then pick it up & lay it down at the foot of the gate & then I will pick it up & I will throw it down at the foot of the well.
I will throw my heavy bag down at the foot of the well.
And all the heavy things inside will slam against the delicate things & they will all shatter & it will sound like a thousand fragile children.
And when we open my bag a cloud of dust will emerge, tall enough to reach the top of the tallest buildings & wide enough to cover all of the land masses of the earth.
And you will then be bound eternally.  


Mathias Svalina is the author of Destruction Myth (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009), as well as many chapbooks and chapbook collaborations. His work has appeared in such journals as Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, and jubilat. He is the co-editor of Octopus Magazine and the press Octopus Books. Born in Chicago, he now lives and teaches in Denver.