Bio: Terry Lucas is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Dharma Rain (Saint Julian Press, 2016) and In This Room (CW Books, 2016). The Thing Itself, a collection of new and selected poems with photographs by Gary Topper, including the three poems published in this issue of The Banyan Review, is forthcoming from Longship Press in November of 2020. His poems, essays, and memoir pieces appear in numerous journals including Alaska Quarterly Review,Best New Poets, Green Mountains Review, and Great River Review. Terry is a regular speaker at Dominican University of California’s MFA Program and a free-lance poetry coach. www.terrylucas.com.
By Any Other Name
They voted Pluto off the list of planets,
one less note in the music of the spheres.
News of this reaches me too late to show up
for the debate and argue for snowball
dwarfs, diminution, and eccentric orbs
cutting through the plane of Neptune—instead
I will write this missive and read the annual
reports, which I predict will change as bodies
wobble their way in and out of favor. Also,
I will listen to the sound of my Apple
laptop instead of my manual Remington
cutting into twenty-pound paper, ink
filling in depressions and gashes on
scrolled pages. What isn’t history? Or
for that matter, this story of changing
names and places, written in fading script,
harvested from cuttlefish, octopi, and squid
killed in the midst of sepia clouds,
bodies luminescent after death—yes
there are nights you could read by the light
cast upon Pluto by its full moon, Styx.
In the mirror I inventory spots and lumps
on my mostly bald body, assessing
any change in color or size. I visualize
eight million years of hair loss, the chances
my ancestors were semi-aquatic, explaining
the webbing between my fingers and toes.
And did they later suffer heat stroke,
perhaps irritating parasitic beginnings
of malaria or Lyme disease as they moved
out of the African Savanna?
My triple-bladed razor excises traces
of hirsute lineage from my space-time face.
Safely tucked beneath hair and bone,
mitochondria in my brain rehearse
their workday full of meetings to decide
which cells live, which die, what diseases
will be revealed on the epidermis before
our star swells to the size of Mars’ orbit,
before blood and bumps boil away—
before tonight’s bottle of Beaujolais.
I love my grocery store. I love to roam
its aisles—Keebler Elves, the Jolly Green Giant
shuffling for position with jellied Spam,
frozen pizza plastered with pepperoni
discs ready to fly down my throat, hover
in my stomach, disembark fat
little passengers to march straight to my heart.
The floral department’s sign reads Poetry
in Bloom above papery black edges of roses red
and violets blue. You can have your Trader Joes,
your Whole Foods, your non-GMO, gluten-free,
organic-only Good Earth. I want a real grocery store
with hormones in the beef, pharmacy attached, pain
killers within arm’s reach of a packaged heart attack.
My Safeway makes me feel safe. Come the apocalypse
I’ll be trapped inside, popping oxy, singing in the singularity
techies say is coming, thawing out a T-bone
on a Weber grill, drinking a ten dollar bottle of Pinot,
staring out the window for signs of life,
of death. Pretty much doing what I do now at home.