Poetry by Mike Perez

Fluid, by Kristin Fouquet

Mohs’s Scale of Hardness, by Mike Perez

Mohs’s scale of hardness:

(Scale devised in 1812 by the German

mineralogist Friedrich Mohs, of the scratch

hardness of minerals […] The scale is linear

up to a hardness of 9 (corundum), but then rises

dramatically to 10, with diamond about 10 times

harder than corundum.

—from Oxford Dictionary of Earth Sciences

0

a sort of geo-autobiography           from soft to hard:

1

 talc

a johnson & johnson dawn

   caress of leaves against a window

magnolia-soft wafts of powdered light that sift through frames

flowered talcum consciousness

       crib of fragrant toes & fingers

billowing of summer air          condensation on your upper lip

a withheld thought

that rises from your head like membranous balloons, as in a comic book        

conversations whispered       

écriture

of written speech imprinting like an etch-a-sketch

into your cerebellum       one quick finger drawn across a text of sweaty windows

2

gypsum

playing hooky from sunday school

the sea is a bohemian

of nomadic traces & jacksonville noons, telling your future

crook of your arm, holding vitreous luster

alkaline pH

iridescent traces of beach water      powdery saline evaporated

to scratches on your forearm     white crystallized on coppertone   

at home your mother’s nail against your truant skin draws up the

desiccated ocean      pulling up the soft-sift of your punishment’s

rinsed tabulation       dusted bust:     you are a corporeal chalkboard of penitence

3

calcite

formed as rhombohedral prisms      of rock-forming carbonate     

found in shells       used as fertilizer or as building-stone     

solidified like stories once believed       & decomposing      

a charted clash of chemistries       two lovers as they kiss

fizzing with virtual bicarbonate      answering each other

in a dialect of isotopes       litmus strips curl from their brows      

reaction’s song reacted        atomic mass & weight      

like a central movement you have longed to get at       voiced      

the note of vulnerability and physics you will recognize     

like jimmy scott’s castrato-wash of vibrato on a long note

wavering like hoarded pain      cauterized with soul     

a stretched emission from the quick that fills the moment

with a wholeness from a fractured legacy      

an empty shell of hard-won hardness        echoing melodic absence

the chemical promise in a kiss       of structure, scaffold, calcium     

of seam & seal & healing knit       mouths met in unguent heat

4

fluorite

white of bonded white        smile of an actor/model/waiter/writer      

as he serves his millionth entrée     after a bump in the restroom stall      

“smile, tho your heart is aching”      opiate white      numb of gums      

upraised tusk in elephantine rage       rottweiler baring fangs      

“brush-a brush-a brush-a, with the new ipana”       

crest of u.s. capitalist as he bites down on a half-wrapped sandwich      

with a tiny strip of tinfoil underneath his molars

5

apatite

principal constituent of fossil bones & phosphoric acid

hunger & the hunt      concrete tenebrae of

homo sapiens

tibia as fable       fabulist recycled fodder of ancestral mulch

carapace of fish picked clean with piranha precision

trace of paleolithic like a triglobyte’s impression     like

a spiny-tailed indent of hoof compressed in georgia clay

the body’s correlative:     gnaw of anorexic pang

6

orthoclase

opalescent play of colors (white w/ bluish tints, red-streaked)

manufactured porcelain pottery glazes

urn of well-wrought amazonite       not the sound of one hand clapping

but the clap of venus de milo’s right hand as it hit the floor

moon-marbly parthenon of ruin

containment of art        a brook of clean-cleaved rubble

earthquake of regurgitated pebbles in a crashing wave

sparkle of a tsunami before it hits a city

7          

quartz

silicate rock-forming       semi-precious       heterogeneous colors

rose & amethyst       cairngorm       dark-brown shot-through streaks, like smoke

shaped like crystal prisms terminating in        striated six-face pyramids

sphinxes of onyx,        opal-marbled,        question you:

how hard is it       to quit smoking       to quit gauging

a hard scale of your own        of day-to-day existence       

no 12-steps       no plague      no blinding        & no incest

8      

topaz   

crystals are prismatic and bipyramidal

named after topazos, an island in the red sea

as adamant as naming things after

the land of canaan

hard as starting over with

agnostic nomenclature      hard as naming

I was traumatized

9          

corundum

two main varieties blue and green    can be yellow to brown or almost black

can be basically a peacock or the nbc logo or networks in general

the shade of the jutting arabesques in Balanchine ballets

corundum’s main use: emery paper

grinding wheels & discs

powders for grinding and polishing    hard as churning Marxist wheels

as memories suppressed

hard as gertrude stein tenderizing jeweled buttons

the shade of family-jeweled confrontation

the dance of who did what to whom’s refracting conversation

“a kind in a glass and a cousin”    an arrangement of language, pointing

no place like home on the range    where no one ever needs say

incest

almost

hard enough for you to forget the rock-in-the-rough of music:       

the fertile shock of chaka khan’s adamantine wail      as she yells “ain’t nobody”

“to shine:

 if there is singing

  then there is the resumption”

re-entry to a workplace

 to an unmolested world

and where exactly

would that be

as you slowly wean yourself from hardened meaning

sea-bottle green of years of isolation cleansing you—   (down the hatch the lithium goes)

redux

 baby precious    polishing you with your own streams of salt       the verdant cut

of newness as you try to let another touch you

without staying jaded

10      

diamond

glitter of an aphorism

oscar wilde’s wit times ten       aesthetic lasting earnestness

much harder than charlton heston’s pecs

in “the ten commandments”

hard as ‘like or as’ perfected

gem of perpetuity

hard as organized religion

unrequited love

the ashes of a.e. housman

interred next to moses jackson’s

deep beneath a cemetery in the fields of shropshire

now transformed into an octahedral carbon pocket

also housing the transformed bodies of long-buried digby dolben

& gerard manley hopkins crystallized beneath the earth

where the ceremony takes 10, 000 years

salt to ash to

soft

to satin spar

& spur of coalescing pyroclasts

 that marry molecules to tetrahedrons

“digby dolben do you take this jesuit to be your lawful wedded

& embedded husband”

in 12,001 they ossify into immortal diamonds

I’ll settle for a mortal diamond:

beau named moses:

moze:

a gay geologist

who mows the lawn & owes his lower hardnesses

to the sight of carboniferous gleam inside my eyes   one may have applied science

who’d like to analyze the seismic hit

within a laying-on of hands

with one purported man of letters

(not an experiment)

words are shallow as a petri dish until we touch

one touch:

we fit like strike-slip faults:    a surge of fertile frictions merging

in a berth of dust

rhythm sprung like offspring from our bodies

indeed      if we continue

we will burn for this one day:

when we’re buried side by side

transform & transubstantiate into

the resourceful dark of hardened coal

a dormant fuel: one spark

& we will flare and spiral upward

risen lucent rings

celestial ropes

of intertwining

a diaphanous dance of moans that rise up to the ozone

generated by the tender motor of the earth’s wild core—

where        at last 

the remnants of us mesh & melt & mend together—

the ecstatic metamorphosed hardness

of the body’s book shall then dissolve in glory,

liquefy & cool near the first source     O holy geofather,

we will seep back into you

an ultramafic river

ferrous iron

bone and marrow      freed of frame & name.

Mike Perez earned an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MFA from the University of Houston. His dad was an aviation expert and his mother is the acclaimed poet Nola Perez—thus Mike considers his current occupation as a professor at an aviation university to be merely Kismet (and DNA) fulfillment. His poems have been published in GLASS, Bloom, Crab Orchard Review, Route Seven Review, The Journal of Florida Studies, and at Winning Writers as a finalist in their annual War Poetry Contest. Book chapters have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The Susan Sontag Anthology, Queer/Adaptations, The Power of Makeup, and Essays on Billie Holiday, an anthology for which he also was lead editor.

Interview with Mike Perez

  1. How long have you been making art?
  2. Is art your full-time job? If not, what is?
  3. What inspired this work?
  4. What writers or artists inspire you and your work?
  5. Where can we find your recent or future work?

6. What would you advise those interested in seriously pursuing art?

1. I guess I’ve been writing poetry since around age 13, word-drunk on Sylvia Plath and even entering poetry festivals alongside my mom. That’s another story.
2. Teaching writing is my full-time job—I teach humanities and writing courses, including technical communication, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. But writing is always at the core of who I am, from poem to poem.

3. “mohs’s scale of hardness” came about while I was taking an undergraduate Geology course as I was completing a long-abandoned undergraduate degree in my mid-thirties. I was taking a science elective and was in mad love with a young man who, somehow, fired my imagination as I was sitting in the Geology course hearing jargon—why and how the two combined in my creative mental kiln is still a mystery to me. The scale of hardness itself gave me a structure to respond to metaphorically, jargon to create images, and a developed conceit—that still surprises me to this day. I got a ‘C’ in Geology and the young man let me go, but “mohs’s” is still here after all these years.

4. Bishop, O’Connor, O’Hara, Shange, Schuyler, Doty, Jericho Brown, and James Allen Hall are all giving me life right now.

5. Where to find more of my poems out online right now: Glass (more geology), The Journal of Florida Studies (even more geology), and Route 7 Review (a mix indeed).

6. If you stay true to the tonal aligned tectonics of your soul as it rubs against your body and aims to make coherent, turmoiled noise, your poems will find a home, though we can’t make a call as to how many years or poems it may take. I defer to the former Miss Gay America Victoria DePaula when she was asked to give similar advice in the movie Pageant to current and aspiring female impersonators: “Stay true to yourself and those around you.” Workshop colleagues, colleagues at readings, mentors (including life itself), and anyone who can share with you the thrills of a beautiful, touching, outrageous, defiant, and messily compressed sonic truth of a poem—stay true to all of these iterations and never negotiate yourself, a draft in progress, no matter how long it takes. It only took 57 years for me to start to know and feel this! Get into this process—the publications will come. Submit and listen and submit no matter how many rejections accrue. Listen to and try to thank the rejections as much as the acceptances. This is both hard and worth it