Toad Hall Press is pleased to announce that Damon McLaughlin of Tucson AZ has won their 2011 Chapbook Prize for his collection, Olduvai Theory. The judges commended "his deft lyric voice, his mastery of language across a breadth of subjects, and the chapbook's thematic coherence and depth." Olduvai Theory will be published in July 2011.
"This Great Something"
by Damon McLaughlin
Long before September Oh-One and the History
Channel, before Hernan Cortés and Jerónimo de Aguilar,
the Maya profiteered a thousand years and more,
their purest children offered to the Maize God
before their millennium circled to its end and civilization
started over—more fiercely—again. These ancestors
to present-day Maya of the Yucatan
rolled three stone gears into one giant pre-
Colombian Mesoamerican fusion du jour that predicted
this great something’s end. Why give it a name?
In the beginning was the word: a non-Mayan, non-
Anglo precept preceded by the sex-whistles of birds
of paradise, howler monkeys, mambas, pre-speaking
bipeds with their rock jaws and low-slung
thumbs good for nothing but dangling like a cow’s
loose dewlap, bipeds whose first performative I!
ruined everything. Before this, slow-moving giant sloth
herds and herds of mammoth of flat-toed steel drum feet
drowned-out by euphonic La Brea burble, black fire,
the atomic bomb a meteor
that drummed T-Rex into mute earth
like any young punk jazz trumpet should be drummed
by a maestro, occasionally, of the cosmos and its scales,
and this predated by coelacanth—that old guiro!—
trilobites, bacteria, sea gulps that dripped off Pangea
rising like a split pea on a seraphim’s spoon, the soup
this volcanically heated slop of evolutionary aromatics
—onions, chromosomes, bay—reduced to a concentrated
nothingness stirred once by the Big Bang stirred once
by another stirred previously by another we’ve written off
unlike we write our own, ours the only endlessly
climbing wave, not another too-low-to-be-heard
frequency freeform at a level that resists
definition other than bop, an eons-long, monotonous
beeeeeeeeeeee-bop. Not even a dial tone. Not a
if you’d like to make a call….And before this? Beneath it? Utter
moonshine jug and washboard band
noise, Top 40 Jew’s harp (that is
its proper name) singles we slap a spoon to when we hear it
with our Hadron-Colliding good ear
over the Good Book’s good thumping, that primordial beating
one more mystery to rock apart underground where all
great mysteries are buried and tabulated and well-reasoned:
The Kennedy Assassination. The Vikings at Greenland.
The Twinkie Cream Procedure. And—
is God mass or massive? Immaterial? Balanced?
Come here my darling, my moonbeam, my honeybunch.
These are questions to which you are the only answer
anyone’s arrived at after decades of doughnut-
dunking coffee-slugging number crunching.
See how this year’s robins litter the sidewalks like war-
time propaganda? Hold me. Everyone’s going to lose
this latent spring of excess comforters and cold-wind
afternoons. The bud opens quietly, so it can close.
(This poem originally appeared in The Journal, the literary magazine of Ohio State.)