Transmission and Distribution

I’m tired of turning away from all this stuff
that keeps everything up & running—
all the prosaic pipes and conduit in the air that R. Crumb
swore, once and for all, he had to draw,
if he was going to get the world right—
all the manic sprouts of wire ducting overhead,
lines crisscrossing a road from which someone’s
Nike sneakers hang, the squat cylinders of transformers
humming substation canisters, ceramic insulators stacked like frisbees,
the lattice steel transmission towers of Linden,
the flywheels of Weehawken, the benighted,
misunderstood industrial parks of New Jersey,
all transit and hub and bad air.
I’m tired of the unfunny jokes flickering in television light.
I’m tired of the lyric disconnect between cattail and tamarisk,
a lone blackbird sitting there on a post,
and the screaming turbines of Elizabeth,
the kilovoltage crackling in the air,
as you float beneath transmission lines on the Delaware,
the line splaying forth like capillaries to the very last wire
leading down some inlet to a point by a river’s mouth
and the ocean, where someone is frying a flounder
on a stove, which may yet fuel a moment
of incandescence like the phosphorescent green
our footprints made tonight in the sand.

Mark Svenvold is first and foremost a poet, working on his next collection. He has written recently about bicycle nomads for Orion Magazine; wildcat oil geology for Fortune/Small Business; and solar power and offshore wind power for The New York Times Magazine. Svenvold’s books include Big Weather (Henry Holt  Co, 2005) about tornado chasers and the culture of catastrophilia and Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw, (Basic Books, 2002), which unravels the bizarre career of a Long Beach, California, fun house mummy. A 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Nonfiction, he covers renewable energy for AOL’s DailyFinance. Mark teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Seton Hall University and is actively engaged in the undergraduate literary and performance scene on campus.