Futureless Languages

Cynthia Arrieu-King's Futureless Languages is a book about evil kings and leaders, curses, harbingers, languages, mystic translation, elegy, and the Anthropocene. As Ana Božičević points out, it is "a mixed tape of things 'beyond interpretation'. . . King writes a poetry of now that bears out how language already accesses tomorrows: a simple switch of tense changes everything, like the time traveler who butterfly-effects their own birth. While they hold language’s paradoxes, these poems hold the world’s too."

Futureless Languages

It seemed endless and then

it didn’t disappear but

there was no way to

look it in the face.

I had walked far into

a winter of stone steeples

a bunch of graffiti that

read elect the dead and

then no more sidewalk.

Nausea on the way to

get groceries: someone

is about to drop a bomb.

A hallway of sunshine.

Done for another eon.

I heard if you get

drained by people,

create a purple energy

shield around you

so what could I do

but imagine purple

light as a bubble

around the city, the

whole country, the

world. Thought about

us-ness and ongoing

fully invasive mint

old trees chanting

shame, us burning

[with] nostalgia

about the time when

the future was promising.

Languages with no

future tense use

the present instead,

make future a suite

next to the present.

Tomorrow I break free.

Tomorrow he is gone.

The gas engine is no more.

I do not smoke. Tomorrow

most animals and trees

are dead. In the fall,

I live. I live this fall.

The speakers of these

supposedly have

more prudence, prepare,

save money, smoke less.

Except an outlier culture

that has no marker

for the future tense

who don’t especially

prepare for their future

selves: perhaps to

some, hedonists.

I guess you could pull

your dick through

a hole in a mask

but it’ll be tough

to get your pants up.

El Anatsui

Feeling in pain when there is no stomach-ache.
There is only the pain of the mind and hundreds and thousands
of small gold oblongs wired into a surface. Into this burns the sun,
bottlecaps thrown, a chain mail, trash draping, curtaining,
a sound, a stone thrown across a shield or metal grate,
a sorrow not forthcoming but showing the leathering hand.
The artist pours out this visible tension, scraps pouring through.
Heat on neck, glare on glass, dust in the air. Scintillations—
things that stick, memorized coins, everything assembled.

I wish I spoke more languages because each new language is a window says El Anatsui
and notes that the word he says means war and erupt and disrupt
how his language can stretch. I’ve been at words this whole time,
spelling in my sleep. A wall, flattened back, of curves and sticks,
a thimble tall quake. Metal and rapid small beads
a nimble hand fixed to cloth fine as a soldier’s golden skin
made to move. El Anatsui takes death/trash, mends it
into a sheath. Lightning, a crow. We mean crown. I mean
your language, English, he says, is too specific. So unpreventable.

Freedom of Speech

If I can’t say, brother, what I meant to say, tell yourself a grudge was my homage to you.
The benevolent bulk of your shadow, dragon like, cutting the wounded helpfully

the anticipation of sewing them back together. Like watching grass grow.
Mangled hands, the person who let their arm dangle out a window

and the van rolled on it so that an attending holds her wrist up while
you bend over the thousand capillaries, clock the place to snip the spool.

Cold room, then, for the woman who didn’t see it coming, crumpled from
              damage sunk into everything. You repair, you store ointment

in wounds which is your work. Your eyes always dip to sleep after a remark
about how climatologists are overreacting, the march of history, the next civil war,

              all good things come to an end. What kind of bandage
              goes with this single mode of protection: against threats only—

warning me about counting cash on the street, to stockpiling water
                            or attack dogs. Your scrubs a mess

of bloody willows, of fire breathing, of trust me I’m a doctor, or eat shit and die,
of it’s okay but in the future try to remember. Because blood doesn't lie.

All my back talk only for you, it trained me

for this moment. Together you and I can make anyone uncomfortable, clear the room
snapping out headlines that cancel each other out, brandishing outliers,

and then freedom—

most of a nation learned to lean out the window never suspecting this danger.
                           One arm now restless in the lap,
                           the other mostly useless from wanting a moment in the free wind.

In 5000 Years None of This Will Really Matter

I took a thing from my car that wasn’t supposed to be there. I stopped bothering to say hi to my white neighbors because they never say hi back. The cosmos kept blowing up like a snake in a fake peanut brittle box.  I stopped buying corn from the woman at the final stall because she already was constantly complaining about non-problems but then, as I was rearranging my groceries in my tote, squatted down by the corner of the table, she said are you keeping an eye on the something something and I said what and realized she was telling the Amish woman who worked for her to keep an eye out for shoplifters. Mopping the cool of the browbeater. Block me or I’ll block you first. I saw us eating pizza sleepily while on the timeline of the cosmos, an infinity of dead stretched before us. I would be hard pressed to pick one memory from this life to use as a bridge to oblivion. Walking in a cold meadow after a swim. Sitting on my dad’s chest as an infant. Laughing so hard with Jenny we couldn’t breathe, throwing stuffed animals. A made-up game.


The air in the rocks speaks.

The pits in the vase speak.

The sheep caught on a hard slant speak.

The birches planted close together speak. The trout speak blue.

The lake speaks the wind and the wind speaks the terns and the terns speak nails.

The poet speaks the words bear shirt and the bear shirt says 

I also mean “without-armor”.

His axe spoke about deprivation and graffiti and mold.

His blood speaks on the rocks

and the lava speaks about building new land with your rage

the rage speaks in lightning and bats

and the bats speak sonor

which speaks laughter through the halls of Hekla

whose speech makes the kettles swing

their hair howls in whorls that ask for raw egg

that asks for hands or to slide in a jar,

the jar speaks of rain separating from mud,

nails and vials, horns and clover, dots from light

and the pattern speaks of a mother now broken

and the mother speaks green gold which might be a fresh mother itself—

 speaking of wool and the wool speaks of late afternoon.