morris and the 2-ply manifesto

uranium rattlesnake whiskey
whatever morris has lying around
he loads into his army issue surplus duffel
he tosses into the backseat
of his used sedan
and lurches across interstate 80
away from cheyenne
the way a foil balloon plucks
at the leash of a power line
when the high winds move off the great basin
AM band finds the vein, trudges
past the jangle of red bull and tramadol
as open sky squeezes
black loam into spears of chartreuse
and somewhere between
lincoln and omaha
the redolent cirrostratus of
cafo lagoon ammonia
rouses morris from
a reverie-buckled no place
nested somewhere in the abyssal
undulature, too molten for myth
wifi out of range
stepping over tetrapods
on his way into des moines
the manifesto won’t write itself
nearly finished as it may be
with a chapter or two
to go
morris dictates whatever
the despotic goddess of the interstate
in turgid dialect
and clumsy braid
necessary tongues when the
temple priests quarrel over
true north
and bach sells suvs
to the reserve army of the
temporary in-between
the independent on-demand
the just-in-time by design
seems like the only thing working
is the whiskey
which morris drains
as interstate 35 deposits kansas city 
as so much accumulation
not far from where the father
was born and died
and in between
drove a wonder bread truck
until the postmodern poets 
poisoned the well
and took everything
but the crusts
but by then
morris had fled
west west west

one last solemn
and first principles begin to 
sing, a hermeneutics for
the infinite interregnum
in verse: a kettle of vultures 
purling near the shoulder
horizons punctured by the sputter 
of cell towers and gadsden flags 
and in the passing blear of
billboards and bumper stickers
clearly, morris receives
the final commandments

under an illinois sky turning 
tuxedo and blanching the yellowed
manifesto pages in the
passenger seat
that steam in the
neon of rest stops
and megachurches
on the edges of envelopes
of overdue utility bills
and in the margins of
the road to serfdom
morris scrawls a marginalia 
that begets a marginalia
that shapes empty space

too much puh puh puh
not enough putsch
bitch didn’t get dressed up for nothin’
pissing into plastic
on daniel boone expressway 
racing the artichoke green florets
of agricultural runoff
in the ohio river
the mother appears, unbilled
in the halos of passing big rigs 
freed from the tyranny of
small embarrassments
and black lung
to jostle with
the despotess 
in her bakelite mozzetta
unable to slurry the fever
roiling the peasant from

no cracked lips to steam in
bone broth or ice cubes to
chew, no black
pepper in the soles of
morris’ socks
only sheets of cold mist 
drawing back into the
croaking growth of oak and 
hickory and onto 
then beckley and lewisburg
with the AM band cranked to
huffing dust-off
and spores from message boards
fogging up the windows  
with nothing to see anyway
but the skulls of the blue
ridge mountains filling
the hollers like so many
beheaded counterrevolutionaries

heading east east east
as interstate 64
heaves the used sedan onto 95 
and with it, a self-similar
and contagious tidal
surging northward towards
the capital beltway
calving mile marker by
mile marker into a
rictus of incompatible parts
so cacophonous the
drowning out becomes the whole
point, the truth a thing
to assemble as we go
the motor of
history a house of mirrors 
sloshing of plundered paganisms
and populist platitudes
the immiscible volume
finding its container
in morris
in ten thousand words
in a 2-ply manifesto for
the breaking insurgency
beseeching his followers to
to make brick and
burn them throughly

brandish your torches
print your single-shot liberator pistols
grab whatever you have lying around
uranium rattlesnake whiskey
no sense making sense of things
no cents worth the zinc they’re
issued on
no i in peasant

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson is a New York native who has worked as a community organizer, activist, academic, and poet. He currently lives (and farms!) in Southwest Virginia with his partner and their rescue cat and dog.