Blackbox Manifold

Issue 12: Steve McCaffery


Night made everything illegible

but Kimberley Madison was her name

and her faucets were the toast

of the town until

the toaster burned the neighbour’s baby

thinking in its cot.

                             Don’t be silly

asked the children,

why don’t you visit my family

in Bosnia and sing a song for them

in Pig Latin?  He’s over there

skyped in behind the selected works

of several fisheries employees

arguing on the picket-line

that we need a couple more granades

to make a baker’s dozen.

I’m sure glad we’re not thinking in our century

nor the ones before that

when the hectares were more

uniformly unpleasant than trying to explain

the recent spot of genocide to a school bus full

of trans-gendered boy scouts

wishing they were girls again before

going to sleep in their Spring semesters.

Did you hear the one about the botched

Iraqi transplant during the water-boarding


That was a christening not to be constitutional about

I wouldn’t take no for an answer

if I were you from that weird apparatus

vibrating in the waiting room.

It all depends on the nature of

the proper expediency

tripping blind guide dogs for example

in the night I mentioned earlier.

Everyone around here wants to be Russian

or same-sex survivors in

the servant’s sector of the neutral zone

whistling the anthem of a man I knew.

Nobody has time to change

into oxymorons when everyone’s asking

for a glass of reference before each meal

and the headlamp starts to vanish

e’en to disappear  . . .

the national flag decided to become neo-liberal

in the precise sense of something else

blowing in the tunnel of love   or elsewhere

before the fuel parade of the human fossils.

The trilobites are coming!  The trilobites are coming

out of Father Christmas’

false teeth & beard

they are victorious over other entities

dressed up in the skins of animals

being punished for their flatulence

it’s not unlike crop rotation

for the masses

and when it wasn’t the crippled acrobat’s turn

to replace the hole in the cease-fire

it all turned into snarls of

forbidden ramifications

in the local massage parlour

whistling an epistle to the disused

side-walk as the bulb comes up

to screw in a light bulb?

nobody asks the car bomb specialist to change

his underwear three times a year

while posing for flash photography


after checking the cranial indices

one enters the cave of Plato

behind the key retinue

burnt ochre pedagogies disappear into

the curved stone matrices of bishops

bison, reindeer

butterfly beings

Stone Age Xanthippe remonstrates

the futurist runes deposited

by two disinterested integrity scientists:

Bob and Bing


the scab halitosis

closet hylozoists

elastoplast the girn

to heroic adolescents

in a Japanese manga


Across a green Sahara

the Neuter staggers to embarrassing enormity

tired of obedience to

the Martian anarchists’ hermeticism

syncretic complexities relax into

the efficacy of transit

Ruben Dario is with it, Parnassian poet of Nicaragua

transitive in his casual nod to the long white beard

manipulating the molecular new words

in an architect’s space.

Like tiny Oscar Wildes child traders hedge

their family traits by intelligent sequencing

vague, at first, through a Lenin fog

until their wounds no longer irritate

Darwinian operatives in the monkey penthouse

police the inside.

Rot reads itself

the galaxy contaminates its particle origin

a further index fragments what I cannot name

as Wolf Lip.

A clipped card might promulgate a limbo of reticence

in the final hum before dead air on her birthday

so kick the carcasses, get

catharsis from catastrophe.

Steve McCaffery is author of over 35 volumes of poetry and criticism. His new book Dark Ladies will be appearing through Chax Press later this year. A member of the Canadian Sound Poetry ensemble Four Horsemen, and a founding theorist of Language Writing, he is David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the University at Buffalo.