Poems by Mark Trechock

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by Mark Trechock

From Canary Winter 2015-16

Mark lives about a mile north of the Heart River, which rises on the east slope of the North Dakota Badlands. After meandering about 180 miles it empties into the Missouri River, which has been dammed for hydro-electric power some 60 miles upstream. The Missouri receives virtually all surface water from the Bakken oilfield.

Computerized clouds roll north by northeast
across the straight lines of counties and highways
again and again on the evening news screen
toward that unseen point where longitude’s meaning
dissolves in a landscape of melting ice.
We’re in for a storm tomorrow, they tell us,
power outages likely, no travel advised in any direction.
Drag out the lined sleeping bags from the furnace room,
stock up on firewood, water and batteries
while it’s still safe to be out on the streets.

Unseen in the weatherman’s graphics
are two hundred oil rigs from here to Canada
opening new fissures in the earth,
thousands of wells pumping to the surface
the oil that soothes our restlessness like mother’s milk,
and incidentally natural gas too worthless
to bother taking time to capture and send to market,
plus the salty water and chemicals
planted in the soil by previous upheavals
or plunged by force into earth’s skeletal frame
until it bleeds oil for us.

Filling the tank in diminishing light before the storm,
my breath plumes toward the electric Cenex sign,
which tells anyone who keeps track of these things
the price of gasoline is now down forty cents
since Fourth of July weekend six months ago
when it was more than one hundred degrees.
I greet my neighbor wheeling up in his SUV
“If this is global warming,” he says,
rubbing his hands and shivering,
“by God, I wish someone would turn it up a notch.”

Back home I switch on the TV again,
take up my station before the predicted storm clouds.
They never deviate from their churning course
toward the pole, they never relent,
while I sit immobilized, furnace purring
like a cat asleep in the sunshine,
car filled with gas in the garage.
Whatever it is that is coming,
what could stop it now?

Oil and Water

by Mark Trechock

From Canary Spring 2016

The oil came back in a dry year.
Gas flares sprang up in the weeds,
hugging the earth and thrashing like animals in traps.
We tried not to think about grass fires.

The second year was a year of oil and water.
Snowy egrets in flooded canola fields
stood still like ocean bathers getting used to the cold;
three children floated inner tubes down a ditch;
a bittern stood in the water upstream,
whipping the snake clenched in its beak from side to side
like a land man waving a standard lease to close the deal.
Waves lapped at the fence along a submerged gravel road,
white plastic bags rippling from the barbed wire
like flags of surrender awaiting an occupying force.

Things moved that were supposed to stay put.
Out of sight below ground with the dead generations
oil and briny water traversed the earth in tubes,
oil for market, water for disposal.
No one knows where it all goes.
If blueprints exist, they may possibly be discovered
on crumbling paper left at long-abandoned work benches,
perhaps by those who cannot decipher them.
The state says the oil and water move
below where anyone would sink a well—
yet maybe someone would,
living in a future year of no oil and no water.

But oil and water is what we have for now.
We know that much.


by Mark Trechock

From Canary Summer 2016

North of the lake the Colossus of Oil
holds aloft a fireball of gas
like an Olympic torch wafting sulfur
to salute the record-breaking pumpers.

Midnight, the trucks still rumbling
down the two-lane past Lakeview Wrecking,
where their final resting place awaits,
gas flares in the distance like untended bonfires,
six, no seven to the west,
no time to let our gaze linger,
as we roll through the diesel-powered traffic
past the colossus and its eternal flame.

Sudden headlights appear in our lane
down from the crest of a hill.
We slow and descend to the gravel shoulder
like subjects curtseying in obeisance.

“At the end of the Bible,” says Jay,
who was schooled in King James apocalyptic,
“it says night will be no more.”

Previously published in Fracture (Ice Cube Press, 2016).

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