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EP :: Oni Buchanan

I was a Whale



I was a whale extending a flipper to you

I rolled over and over to feel the water

coursing over my powerful body

I am so immense unstoppable and yet

the water surrounds me and

holds me up I am not made

of machinery or maybe I am

if blood and bones and nerves are machinery

the alternating pistons

light coursing through a tube

Oh voice of my father

Oh voice of my teacher

My friend whales call to me underwater and I turn my belly to the sun


I was a complicated instrument

I had silver valves and

curving brass slides that could be removed and put back again

I carved my own mouthpiece

from a waving reed cut down at the water’s edge

The sun gleamed off my metals

I had strings wound and tightened

like executed thieves

The length of a breath was the length

of a bow drawn against me

Oh velvet revolt of sound into the cold, cracked air

Oh changing tones reflecting the

quality of touch the quantity of breath

the roundness of the mouth

The sound makes the skin supple and heals

the density of thought


I was an inchworm hanging from a silken thread

I was hanging from the great canopy of the green leafy heavens

I swung back and forth in the air to catch you

My thread was invisible I was a living

green digit counting in units of one

With my silken thread I caught each guilty body

as it passed oblivious I chastised

the striding arm that harvested my sticky strand

I measured the error with a journey

over the skin’s expanse

I matched the dirty exhale with a fluctuating air

My purity cancelled out the trespass

and left a vacuum where I fell

and gained a footing on the mottled earth

Oh generosity withheld

Oh unspoken apology

So much mud to measure


I was an audience I was a congregation I

was a lobotomy ward I was single-minded

in my endeavor a cesspool

of mosquito eggs the wasp hovering just above

I was a sled of regrets

dragged over gravel

I was furiously weaving at the

structural lines Oh threadbare life-forms

Oh lungs that pump the sour air

I was a fog machine of flaw

My fear is fleshed out into an intolerable species

that should be flattened without warning

under a heavy broad rock


I was an invisible wheel in my own heart

turning turning as the rest of me rode my own

bicycle down the street

I was the toothed mechanism winding down

the notched surface ground flat I was

the somewhat deflated lining

A glass shard hurt

from an undetectable location

I was tainted with a compromised oil I was

sapped My own invisible tread of tire

sought traction as the beatings

surrounded me in the pitch

Blood courses through my spinning spokes

I can’t tell if it’s me

or the machinery to which I am

affixed The tiredness

radiates from the exact

center where all the spokes

attach Oh fuse

The heart of the

invisible wheel of the heart







Oh life which I hate

Oh wading pool of dirt and runoff

Oh tree chipper roaring and chewing and spitting out again

Oh curly, curly pig tail sprightly on the pig bottom

Oh shirtless, overweight retiree

punctuating talk radio

with deep personal belches

Squelched talents like shriveled walnuts

rattling in the shell, the tensed muscles

You can see I am over-obligated

I have chosen a difficult profession

Though I kept my nose to the grind-stone

Though I kept my ear to the ground

Though I put my shoulder to the wheel

Still it appears

I have over-committed myself

to the needs of others, to offering solutions

to the selfish, blunt-headed needs

of others, to the litigious, masturbatory

prick-waving of others

Must it be so, Lord?

What a tricksy gamer who builds things

with blobs of oil

What a tricksy gamer who sells old clothing items

to purchase new clothing items

What a tricksy gamer who responds to job advertisements

with links to other job advertisements

No really, I am full of awe

Hit me with a hammer, Lord

Hit me with a chisel made of crystal glass

But don’t let him die

Don’t let him die yet

How could it be

the mechanics of this day, this hour,

hide a better, more perfect





17-Year Diagnosis



I photograph myself beneath

a street sign indicating

an evacuation route.  I collect

dehydrated foods

for the emergency kit.  I disperse

the remaining marigold seeds

over an anonymous plot

of unlikely dirt.  “I dare you!”

I shout to the distant officer. 

Am I not meant to achieve

what others cannot achieve? 

I deprive myself


of an adequate serving. 

I refuse all compensation. 

I relinquish my significant lead

in tennis.  I quietly close and put away

the dictionary and thesaurus. 

I crouch under the giant bush

rubbing wet clay over my face. 

Am I meant to medicate myself

down to a pincushion of vibrating needles?

My white eyes peer out, guilty,

brimming with tears.  I think back


on the hibernating ladybugs

cloistered inside the cement tower

rising monolithic from the abandoned hill.

Masses of faded red bodies

piled up on one another

like a mountain of pills waiting

to be shuttled into bottles, portioned out

in dosages, swallowed by a “patient,” or,

that person with a desperate wish

to change, exchange

their molecules or un-derange— 

“Patient,” an electric humming

of collaborating complacencies. 

And then when summer came, or,

over-ripened, the swarming cicadas


formed an inescapable

grid in the air.  All the

buoyant, buzzing bodies.  A pinball machine

of ideas and the will

ricocheting from one elastic

possibility to the next, racking up

collision points before dropping exhausted

through an unseen

hole in the floor, trapdoor,

just one loose cranial plate

and a bottomless drop beneath.  The un-medicated

beating of wings.  They festered


over plants and trees and rocks.  They crawled

unbidden from holes in the ground with

implacable, unreadable eyes, red and

opaque, a hideous, hooked leg bent

into the bark.  Am I only led

by the particular tint

of my vision, the limp of my version?

The deafening intonations

so thick the modulation

was one of accretion rather than

succession, the sustained pulse

folding thicker to a shriek.  Time-lapse

release.  Husks of bodies

still clawed onto the trees,

their backs split open where a new,

whole life emerged.  Is it so unfair to surge


ahead, with the speed built

into the body?  An aberration, an

adaptation.  I sob into a monogrammed

handkerchief but stop again.

I roll my body in a hanging curtain.  De-

lighted.  Blighted.  Unrequited.  Yeah,

those were the days.  I beat you

till you obeyed.  I eat my way

down into the swollen earth, oh dark

and blessed sleep.  Overcome me, please, then

summon me again by some

other name, a beckoning to surface, a

reckoning—  It’s me again, crawling

out with red and raging eyes. 

Will you recognize me

by my face?  The filmy carapace

just bursting at the seams.  I’ll beat

my new wet wings

against a fern.




Sometimes a Body



It’s hard to see things differently

without the person

without the voice of the person, but


more, the body that holds the voice,

the body that moves from one side

of the room to the other. 


Someone insistent on arguing

can see aging on the body.

Can see weakness.  The voice


comes from the weakness

of the body.  It shows a different

angle.  It reveals alternative


possibilities.  Compassion comes

from watching the gestures

of a body.  Without the person there


it’s hard to re-imagine.  It’s hard

to see another way.  Sometimes

a body there is a necessary


intervention.  It shows someone

obstinate with righteousness

where a voice is coming from.


Do you see where I’m coming from?

And the vulnerability of the body

measures the content of the words


of the voice.  The body’s vulnerability

tempers the temper of the words

of the voice, it opens up a new


brilliant corridor filled with

light.  Some may think it’s

divine light that touches and


illuminates another possibility.

But it’s more than that.  It’s a light

that shines through


tears that hang from the golden

corridor ceiling on nylon fishing line.

The tears on their lines are fastened


to the ceiling with transparent

thumbtacks.  The light shines through

all the tears, refracting pendants


of unspeakable pain, and this is what

makes the shimmering and causes

the image to shift.  The movement 


makes compassion in the light; it’s like

a piece moves in the skull.  A fused piece

shifts like an effortless opening door—







Well it started when I wondered

if I had something to say

and realized I did not.  So much

work needs to get done anyway.

Some songs need to be

photocopied for the routine

and we need to work up

some skits involving grass

hula skirts and wigs.

High tide is coming in

and the gulls are being aggressive

as usual.  One child uselessly

digs a ditch which keeps filling

with water.  The sky

is clear and blue with one big

streak of cloud across it like a vacant

Girl Scout sash with no

earned badges.  The waves

come in ringing.  It’s a high

frequency.  Algae pulses up

in the water like bile thrown up

from the gut of the ocean.  It doesn’t matter

anyway.  It’s all a question

of perception, all these strangers

in the water.  All our misshapen

bodies telling their own unspoken

mythologies.  Everyone wants

to get in the water

below the blue sky below the

blaring sun.  The rhythm rolls in

again and again.  I had enumerated

the party ideas in a tidy list

that I communicated to others involved

who will convene tonight to discuss

the array of activities.  A vote

will be conducted and specific

festivity contributions will be

assigned to specific individuals. 

A helicopter flies by and everyone’s

attention is drawn upwards like we’re all

a bunch of eager dogs

ready to chase down the next

thrown frisbee.  However impossible

it all may be, objectivity.  Sometimes a person

finally overhears himself

talking out loud to himself.

The voice that had been going on all the while

in a ludicrous turn of events

is one’s own voice.  The sand

has gotten all over my towel

and the black flies bother me with their

tiny relentless biting.  Offensive Croc-wearers

kick by in the sand, hauling coolers

and colorful umbrellas.

The beach is clearing out

here in the late afternoon and soon

I will be eating a food item

and dreaming up party favors.

Everybody just creating

endless tedious obligations

for one another.  “Because it’s

my turn.  It’s my turn now.”

A girl drags her yellow bucket

through the water and comes back

to fill the castle moat.  Apparently the terns

are nesting further down the beach

past where the humans thin out.

An electric fence is erected around

a part of the beach right in our midst

where the piping plovers are nesting. 

Because apparently humans

are so indecent that only

an actual electric fence on the public beach

will keep us from trampling down

a limited group of fragile plovers

in order to get pictures of the plovers

or see the plovers better or see

what everybody else is jostling to see.

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