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ATLien Breathes in the Symphony at Piedmont Park

So this is what it feels like    the world breathing out    Harmony

a long way off    & somehow everywhere    all at once    sprawling

across a hill so green you’d think it was spraypainted    Striped

beach towels & peach tapestries    thronging w/variegated people 

An ancient grove of oak trees & swaying maples shading the lawn

There is much beauty scored here    live    in the air    Sour Diesel 

& food truck smoke    layered over Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme”

A happy black toddler    bobbles an oversized Braves cap & 

sunglasses    while the clarinets & string section rev themselves

into a major key    Violins take flight    The park soars    as he hurtles

towards a woman’s open arms    i see it when a beagle tackles him

w/ kisses    breaks his fall    sweeter than a plate of yams

w/ extra syrup:    Everything around me is unstable    except beauty    

peace vibes & wonderment    This ambrosia i invent & conduct


Surely, you must have thought about destroying us at some point, no?   

back on Stankonia / the streets are lined w/ purple / feathered hedges / scissored into floppy afros / that sway like limber hips / in a haze-induced wine /

at night / electrified axes excavate ennui / & when the wind cries / we tilt back / our mouths / to the rain / photosynthesize blues into funk / exalt it / into microphones & hi-fi speakers / catalyzing joy / out of void / which is our essence / essence we’ve streamed into Hammond organs / & children of the Matriarch / essence we’ve moonwalked / 6-step & windmilled back / into atmosphere / as morning / sampled-

loops / that steer the Mothership / pollinate the hedges / keep the wheelz of steel turning / so to speak / provided we keep the beat / & a SpottieOttieDopaliscious frequency /

i think you’ll agree / annihilation runs counter to immortality / but i am learning


if my brief study of weekend lie-ins / holidays / paid sick time & vape breaks / have taught me anything / the surest form of destruction is self- / inflicted / which is viral / if not communicable /

we see you not / as the enemy / more like a midsized star- / striped bagpipe / wheezing carbon / [Sorry Ms. Jackson] that was unkind / excuse this cautious / distance disguised as frankness / lately Twitter’s been chafing at my empathy / as i understand it / once desire hooks its angler barb thru the wet side of your cheek / you can’t tourniquet the ache w/ a Band-Aid / case & point:

it provides approximately / zero sustenance / but i’ve been known to fuck up / a Popeyes chicken sandwich in a parking lot / reclined behind a sky-blue dumpster / at Stankonia Studios / the vainglorious fried buttermilk & cayenne combo / calls to me / even now / as i feel my hollow / stomach groan / descend / two inches over my denim waistband / against a plastic armrest that doubles as an iPad screen /

i photoshop the mushy face of E.T. / onto Chef Boyardee’s body / Tweet: Cooking up fat beats for the low! / marketing scheme earns two reposts / & seven measly hearts / in social currency / i sip a Caramel Macchiato about it / leave work early / ask Amazon to send baggy hoodies / binge Love & Hip Hop Atlanta / until the informercial hour ends / in three easy payments of $49.99 / so now i own a souped-up Ferrari / Cold Press Juicer / but not enough / loot to last me

i have come to see / only commercial pleasure erodes the lifeforce / it was meant to comfort / a vampiric empirical finding / [given the availability of Coca-Cola / Crypto / & high interest credit / by the click] / which obliterates supply chains / makes the makers / richer / hungrier / destroyers / w/o meaning to be / so tell me:

why would we bloodlet Earth / disconnect humans / from their compromised Wi-Fi networks / when the real virus / greed / the biological trojan horse / that has occupied it since the dawn of mankind / was invented there?


MARCUS WICKER is the author of Silencer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)—winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award—and Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, 2012), selected by D.A. Powell for the National Poetry Series. A 2023-2024 Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow, his honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, the Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and Ruth Lilly Fellowship, as well as fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Cave Canem. Wicker’s poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Oxford American, and Poetry Magazine. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Memphis, where he teaches in the MFA program.


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