THREE POEMS by Deborah Meadows


Sea heave.
The way pebbles are arranged by sea heave, Democritus wrote, is an example of atomic theory, perception, a rippled pattern in sand, an idea of motion as sifting,

and the sifting might cause heavier atoms to sink down through clouds of light- and middling-weight atoms, down not as a moral journey nor fixative to solid bodies in cosmic vortex. No one

suggested that solid bodies resembled works prone to human destruction, rather the reverse: that workers’ loss, huts, water systems, fishing trawl, baskets, rockets, body art resemble downward movement

too often and disastrously linked to an oddly singular hero, a flaw, an entropic muttering to oneself, some determination to be friendly to the earth against all mastery, extraction of it, it was here somewhere, now it’s wrack and ruin or worse. Yet, too, that appetite a Democritus-sort of demiurge might have had to scoop up handfuls of slime when wishing to communicate his own goodness and so shape Form before it hardens into eternal,

immutable archetype: rig-dead, the plume, the drift, brief empathic moment there—we cry for it. We summon the Gulf, a time its indeterminate forms somehow seemed to mean, though it didn’t have to, proliferation of kind bred among mangrove roots, an existence made tight by sedge, plover wing, sea heave.


from “Four”

Render a proof, engulf the war or
use of images (presence) to suggest
residue and residual salt, air-
open as the times require—thus people,
one burning issue to rally around.
On the Potomac persists a marble
national axiom at a hill’s height,
theological view of pollution,
evaporation of memory. Our
port egress vigorously marked off or
submit to nothing, select against “their”
irrational fear. Deliberately
duet in artistic farce derived from
exploitive intelligence as it’s called.

reprinted from Goodbye Tissues (Shearsman Press, 2009)


from “Procuratio”

Before people realized the effect of windblown pollen no fighting
broke out and women, for the first time, faced a collection of
flaked-stone implements that spoke in the manner of contemporary
linguists of propositional attitudes—thought, beliefs, intentions.
Depressed, our favorite satirical cartoon understood the off-flow,
seepage, and downstream effects, the consequences of a nation’s
independence, free elections forcibly held between factions that
unlike Newtonian gravity were subject to international monetary
policy, and so came into fields no matter fenced areas, signs.
But put off principled involvement is not our only shot at rights, so
much derived from social practice, so much went without funded
scientific determinations too long against unregulated kinds of open
pit extraction, conventions that govern what speakers mean getting
you to believe and conceive.

reprinted from Depleted Burden Down (Factory School, 2009)


A poem may be a way that language might figure grief that opens onto an activist, even militant response. Grief and honoring loss occurs against a sharp background of social critique—does the cry for just redress find a new language?  How is it paradoxical yet utterly necessary to enter into the economy of rights and rational practice even, or especially, when knowledge fails us? How does an ecological commitment make important use, yet remain perpetually uncontainable by the chess game of landmark legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, Multiple Use Act, Clean Air Act? How might we work the surface ever mindful of what is behind the surface, the texture of language, the contingency of social practice, the evaporation of consciousness?


Deborah Meadows teaches in the Liberal Studies department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her recent collections of poetry are Depleted Burden Down (Factory School, 20009) and Goodbye Tissues (Shearsman Press, 2009). Other works of poetry include: involutia (Shearsman Press, UK, 2007), The Draped Universe (Belladonna Books, 2007), Thin Gloves (Green Integer, 2006), Representing Absence (Green Integer, 2004), Itinerant Men (Krupskaya, 2004), and two chapbooks, Growing Still (Tinfish Press, 2005) and “The 60’s and 70’s: from The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick” (Tinfish Press, 2003). More information is available at her Electronic Poetry Center author page.

2 thoughts on “THREE POEMS by Deborah Meadows

  1. some determination to be friendly to the earth against all mastery

    Yes! I appreciate the move from “we cry” to the more general awful grief of/by the Gulf. Thanks for posting these poems.

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