cathryn hankla


Black blood and chemical sunsets

From the nuclear power plant

Near Auvillar, our quaint southern village,

A pretty bit of evidence

Stirs up a windstorm, thunder puffs

That never erupt, a cannon fires into the sky

To ward off lightning and hellfire.

Black bloodlines, small veins

Of iron traversing a mineral hunk.

Prometheus grew a daily liver

Only to suffer its being plucked

Out of his side and eaten by an eagle.

In Eastern Europe the hazelnuts

Are contaminated by Chernobyl

Well into the next century,

As is the water.  Not fit, it will

Turn your bowels black

And everything within them.

Milk paint green shutters

Work against sun in even gestures.

A cool breeze limits

Contentment, limits joy, limits

Pleasure, limits anger.

The buzzing of plump flies

Reminds me of the daily news.

How everything can be or have a corpse,

An eye that blinks, a downside,

Flipside, memory, spin.

I was trying not to wake

And wondering

How I got where I got,

The hours, the continents, the river spilling

From rain and rumbling past.

The woman told her story

Of rejection, of how her parents

Murdered her tie to them.

She pushed us off, dropping

Word bombs.

We stopped listening.

A split screen glimpse of oneself:

I was caught, a five-lined skink,

Half dull brown, half measured

By my indigo, shining tail—

That severed and squirmed

And will re-grow.  The comet

Touts doomsday at the end

Of several centuries in a row.

False alarms resound.

Warm sunlight on brick

Brings out lizards.

Darkness, roaches.

Morning, the local newspaper.

Evening, the moonflowers bloom.

In the village the clock chimes

At steady half-hour intervals.

At 13:30 the postmistress

Reopens for a second half day.

Bonjour, madame, je voudrais

Trois carte postal pour l’etais-unis,

S’il vous plait. Merci, merci.



The rooster crows, and the world is not ending

As long as the la Garonne flows red,

Not from blood but clay, the crumbling

Earth that rolls downhill when it pours.

Mud that makes pots cure in Gascony kilns,

Supplies elephants their vitamins

On the sun-baked veldt,

Grows generations of kin.

What cannot be seen is dark energy

Plus dark matter, in theory,

With neither emission nor reflection.

We’re living in the four percent zone,

Narrow band of the directly known. 

What can we accomplish within our percentage,

Our fractional existence? 

This is no time for ceremony, indeed.

The sun beats down on our straw heads.

Our only worry is the eastern thunder.

Sampling every lace of green and root,

We wander as though it’s forever.


The rooster crows, and the world is not ending

As long as ginger can be grated

Into beets and stirred,

Garlic smashed into butter

With mushrooms and a dash of olive oil.

My grandmother’s dank root cellar,

Lined with jars of persimmon and apricot,

Smelled of gasoline from the mower,

Fresh divots churned by the rear wheels.

To the Mayans, the Milky Way

Was a road of souls, the route

To the underworld, our passage to heaven.


Our solar system is slated to pause in eclipse

At the galaxy’s middle.  Earth’s magnetic

Poles will shift, reverse.  Foretold,

This has not happened yet.

If all time is equally present, can it stop?

Can we stop this time, this time past?

The polar bear finds her footing,

Afloat with her cub.  The planes

Never crash and the towers hold fast.

There was a time when this did not happen.

There was a chance this did not happen.

There was a reversal of fortune.

Before the final divination

From the codified books of God

That beset man on man, wax figures,

Trapped in strata of igneous

Rock, are still waiting to erupt. 

The clattering shark’s tooth necklace

Makes a sound like regret. 

There’s no going back on this lying net.


The rooster is crowing, and the world is not ending.

All day and night the rooster

Wails, as though he were in Spain

Or Mexico, where roosters never sleep.

The crowing has crossed borders.

There are no national songs the rooster knows.

There are no love songs the rooster knows.

There was a time when this rooster

Was a pet, but the cold man sold him.

Now he cannot stop telling his woe.

The albatross has nothing on this blubbering,

This dingy red comb badge of honor.


The rusty feathers of the rooster shine

After the storm.  His mate, the white chicken

Up the hill, perches on a split fence rung.

What to do with these signs and portents?

When the clock says 11:11 every time

You look.  When the dash reads 5:55

With 55 mile per hour road signs

Framing the car in traffic, multiplying

The 5’s luck.  When the digits are 4:44

Every night you cannot sleep.

When everywhere you look the clocks

Are ticking toward 2012.  I unfurl

The tourist Mayan calendar

From San Miguel, study the symbols

Around the painted wheel . 

Planets, stars, seasons, crops, and time.

Stars sighted by sextant, measure

Location at sea.  Space and time, once

Necessarily linked, parted for several

Centuries, awaiting Einstein.


There’s mystery in what numbers

Come up for you.  Some swear by

7’s.  Others claim 13 for their jerseys.

Parents favor their children’s natal

Combinations, as though those

Accidents will unlock Godspeed

At the track.  I won the lottery

On a hunch, on my sister’s birthday,

And was showered with envy

After the billboard announcement went up.

Luck, the most outrageous achievement.

Forget underground shelters, pray for luck.