National Poetry Month, Day 1: “Bronze Age” by Shane Book

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Shane Book’s collection of poems, Ceiling of Sticks, was the first book chosen by the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. You can check out Poetry Book Club Board member Camille Dungy’s rationale for choosing it here, and you can read the the Poetry Book Club’s interview with him as well.

Bronze Age

Their revolution painted on a wall. Revolution
scent in the rust-colored dirt, and the rat-heavy
palms, and the blue diesel smaze over the former
capital. We waited. On the corner, insistent laughter.
On the corner, a turned over bus—flame bathed

to the metal. Our tape measures cocked,
as per our orders. We were given
a belt each and a night. Mine was short-haired.
with jagged white gear teeth and a dirt-sniffing
mechanism for quicker dirt sifting

and much data to desist. Lots: “Encada barrio…”
and “our ideas are our weapons.” Among other things.
Revolution, revolution. Faint image of the revolution’s
big man on the plaza clock. Drawn in wrought iron.
Splashed on a smock. The sounds we watched for:

night wind cracking canvas sails; wood stick
rhythmically striking wood stick; hastily made
motorcades’ ragged sirens. The revolution?
Through our high powered geigers: twin-stroke
underbuzz of revolution’s engine; the puttering

three-wheeled revolution; the landless campesinos
beaten by pots and pans into land and nothing
we could do. They resented our husks.
“Of two eyes one always lies,” this we knew. We planned
removing the other, replacing it with Jefferson dirt:

dirt of the sea, empire dirt, wind down from the north
dirt, father dirt, dirt of scallions and ghost
galleons. The elephant god Jefferson. Trident
in one hand, another with axe, snake in another
and in another his reigns, steering his eight rat team,

as through the green clouds they steam.
On Jefferson’s neck a lush green alligator hung
from a bone chain like a hymn. As always. Family
bones, yet distant; somewhat empirical and fencing
the hill, long shards of oxidized metal. There went

tradition, bronze titan. The balcony scene:
swarms of wetblack hair surrounding
wetblack rocks on the tree-less frozen
sand expanse. Once the show trials were over
we would get to work, but quietly. Such were our orders.

Swimming style analysis, certain constellations
notated from the tattered revolutionary cupolas’
ceilings, hands to secure a detainee’s head (placement
and number). In their revolutionary stories the sound
of dirt on animal skin drums was like the sound

of a blinking eye roving wild in its socket was like…
Their revolution had its big man and its new man tales
of the monolith sky. We had our love.

Shane Book


From time to time, The Rumpus publishes new poems. Check out this multimedia collection of poetry we've published. More from this author →