Poetry: Three Boundary Critiques by Andrew Rihn

I. Convergent Boundaries

The Himalayan mountain range formed
when two tectonic plates converged,
their equal densities raising them up
like a sacrifice to the gods.
Rick met Ilsa in Paris, a month
before Paris met the Germans.
Convergence like this reverses
our faults. We finish one another’s
sentences. They drank from each other’s
glasses at La Belle Aurore.
She wore blue, the Germans wore grey.
Convergence compresses our stress,
pushes us to the opposite of normal.
We find deep-sea fossils
on Himalayan peaks, an ocean floor
forced above the clouds.
You can read about India slamming
into the Asian continent
like a howitzer shell and
imagine the violence for yourself.
Isolationism may not be a practical policy,
but don’t say the geologists didn’t warn us:
in the end, it is convergence
that wreaks the most havoc.

 

II. Divergent Boundaries

It’s a well-known bit of trivia
that Rick’s overcoat is soaking wet
one moment and completely dry the next.
Tensional stress is like that: something
about to snap. Logic like surface tension
against the lip of a cup, ready to burst
like police raiding a gambling room.
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,
the tectonic plates are moving apart,
increasing the distance between Casablanca
and New York. The ocean floor
is standing there with a comical look on its face
because its insides have been kicked out,
the mid-ocean ridge filling with water
like a shot glass filling with whiskey.
Drops of rain to make even the strongest
poem bleed. It doesn’t matter
when it happens, present tense or past,
because tensional stress is always
a story with a wild finish
and more questions than answers.
If Richard Blaine leaves a Parisian
train station at five o’clock,
at what time does he reach alcoholism?
If Dooley Wilson couldn’t play
the piano, would anyone even notice?

 

III. Transform Boundaries

Every few generations, the earth
seems to split below our feet.
During the Spanish Civil War,
Rick fought on the Loyalist side.
Like letters of transit, the San Andreas fault
can have anyone’s name penciled in,
plate scraping adjacent plate
like a pickpocket working the crowd.
The scene is an airport and Major Strasser,
the Nazi, is dead. Rick and Captain Renault
are contemplating hills of beans.
What would Ilsa think to see Salvador
Dali’s Soft Construction pushing and pulling
itself in both directions, anticipating war
and legumes? Rick does the thinking
for all of us, moving in two directions
at once, as blood moves through
both arteries and veins. He calculates
the asymmetry between hearts
and minds, between hands and fists.
Ilsa’s head is among the clouds.
At Rick’s feet, the earth remains
covered in fog.

***

Andrew Rihn is the author of several slim volumes of poetry, including The Rust Belt MRI (Pudding House), America Plops and Fizzes (sunnyoutside press), and Outside the Clinic (Unlikely Stories). He lives in Canton, Ohio.

Photo credit: sioda, morguefile.com

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