the atmosphere is not a perfume it is odorless

Matthew Cooperman

but we smell it anyway, methane, CH4, the ambient nose of combustible
fuels, driving home from the Otherworld to Colorado in the Aftertime, 
and it’s the bland tan buildup of roadside derricks I notice, 

and the haybales surrounding them like haybales, Monet-style almost 
but they’re a wall, distraction, scrim, not grass at all but viewshed blocked,
disagreeable landscape pastoralized, disambiguation

whatever that keeps meaning, painful as a sort of non-self, non object-
being-object, not grass being eaten by a cow, a material betrayal
I feel in the pumping of your dark heart, productive 

and shining in the late afternoon plume, a bluegreen dream titrated 
by a curated thirst. Holy lowly recognition, Carbon O You’ve been had! 
Yet I’m low on gas, must hope, a substance held in the image of a balloon

The Red Balloon floating Frenchly in a clear blue sky, Innocence, being lost, 
or being found out, my sense of time goes in and out of phase with what must 
be yours, I know I feel it, dispersed and sometimes not dispersed, as if I 

am gas also speaking to you, which of course I am, the punchline of poetry. 
Are we always going to go over how I or you do or do not smell the haloing 
over the Front Range? Home on the burner boiling up the ether. We might 

jam the aliens (who is they?), the wind farm’s out, the action’s evanescent, 
coal is a black or brownish-black sedimentary rock formed as strata called coal
seams, plant matter, time, peat, heat, pressure over millions of years, former

wetlands become coal forests, progress, easy, to steam, way after Pennsylvanian 
and Permian climes, in other words slippery. I didn’t notice the smell last time 
we drove from the airport (seen once, an endless tall grass prairie, again 

a caravan of Conestoga wagons, or a series of sails, another inspiration of
repackaged empire hugging the eastern horizon like dancing auto-lot dolls. 
Sale! or Sail! Do I have to say it? material dis covery turned into lost 

baggage, no need to conflate the smell of eggs into another thumb of odes,
hyperobjects are your organs, which, by and by, thrill me, churning at the
mantle, making need and want the same daily anxiety, will there be enough? 

Scarcity is a woman on a bicycle in a gorilla suit throwing an egg. Who isn’t 
the target? I just feel you too heavily dispersed (just now a Safeway baggie
caught in the Russian thistle) which becomes the lung of growth we share

passing north, the new town of Reunion (Come on Home!) welcoming us to a
lessness not possible as nostalgia but there nonetheless gaining traction in my
scan of red barns, TuffSheds®, play structures, plastic white horse fencing 

the crisis in or out, and little false lakes growing up the rolling hillsides of the 
South Platte drainage that stretches lazily all the way to the Missouri, passing
Sterling, CO (Queen of the Plains, né Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Pawnee, 

Sioux, Blackfoot, Kiowa, Crow, etc) after it gathers its North Platte branch at 
the aptly titled town of North Platte (NE), which was exactly two years ago 
last drove, I mean in real time, our shared calendar of days

the increment we shared, now bracketed, a different cene. Would that we
had a compound eye, wood we? And Lo! I have to stop, running on empty, 
the dinosaur beckons, I tap my plastic fob and into the vessel goes 

darkness, thirst, a series of hoses and wires made of you (with the addition 
of ethyl alcohol to abet guilt and false consciousness), the Niobrara Shales,
sexy, fr the Denver-Julesberg Basin, a large asymmetric syncline of Paleozoic, 

Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary rock trending north to south I remember
(they’re endless) another stretch of I-80, a cosmic intuition night driving past
the Sinclair refinery in, gotcha, Sinclair (Wyo), and the plumes at night 

like towers of gold on a burning galleon headed nowhere. Or the top of the
Pitkin parking garage (after Frederick Walker, two term CO governor who
smote the Utes at Milk Creek, and smashed the miners in Leadville mining not silver, coal 

or even lead but molybdenum (alloying metal crucial to American industrial might
in WWII) in my Reunion, standing with my stimming daughter (train obsessed)
watching boxcar after boxcar of Powder River coal going by (we counted

to 100) as the sun glowed west against the hills, your glowering flanks
meticulously piled in open-top hoppers and a point of light like 
insight flashing at the break between, each time, the light of our time…

Now we’re listening to Queen to calm the confused child, (“Love of My Life”) 
don’t hurt me, from Night at the Opera (the best, don’t give me no News of the World 
clap clapping the plexiglass at the hockey game), see?, she’s sad, we’re sad, 

we’re all so sad. But that disc I have on vinyl, double-sleeved, I bought it new 
at Tower Records in SF, just another excursion in memory or complicity abetted 
by gas, its admixture blended seamlessly with rock opera, how we went 

and returned on a fast jet plane? I really have that question mark in my body
because of you. So so the golden years, or the Glorious Befores, I call them 
my carbons––urethane skateboard wheels, yoyos, my father’s discreet 

convertible obsession, Fiat 124 Spider (red, of course), ’67 Ford Mustang 
(Steve McQueen blue), and saddest of all the canary yellow MG 
(with the chrome not plastic bumpers), which are also oil, 

which I totaled on a drive to the beach in La Honda a stone’s throw 
from Alice’s Restaurant. The kids are alright, the kids aren’t. 
Ken Kesey in my woods making fire in memory–– 

throwing gas on a fire at Big Sur, big time!, don’t ocean me in, or a 
Bic lighter tossed into the flames years later, its jet message idol 
joining god & lysergic acid in my head,

or a hologram, being six (someone told me, “you are six”) at hips, looking 
out the rear windows of the car, and the enduring fog outside of Salinas 
(“Steinbeck country,” my mom said) following an ancient 

International Harvester dropping green fists of brussels sprouts and without
warning, to the side of the road, a message from the reptile god, a small 
mountain of tires on fire, burning black and orange over the ghosty fields. 

Cars cars, and boats too, the agents of our transfer, hyperconnectivity, lazy
afternoons at Pete’s Harbor watching the oil slick rainbows going rainbow 
rainbow rainbow, or polishing the sheer strip on Dad’s Cal 24, the pleasure 

of abrasions (made by Goodyear) on the salt effusions of the Bay, balance, 
a Zodiac dinghy, my dad’s muttering about, shiny in teak oil, and my
own face shining off the fiberglass flanks of the hull shining too

your complete annealment. Self-reflexivity, harmonic burn “I Can See Clearly 
Now” the (acid) rain has gone (Johnny Nash, newly dead) sings on the radio
listening to earth. We keep driving, but we have not listened to earth, 

its pain in wreathing carbon. One theory suggests roughly 350 million years ago
some plants evolved the ability to produce lignin, a complex polymer that made
their cellulose stems much hardier, woodier, the ability to produce 

lignin led to the evolution of the first trees, but bacteria and fungi did not
immediately evolve the ability to decompose lignin, so wood did not fully
decay, became buried, sedimented, eventually turning into coal. Then there’s our

anthropogenic energy transfer, the other part of the song. I’m still struggling
with the plant / tire dichotomy, cognitive object dissonance child,  
or the memory of an astral child that wakes ours up, and then we’re home

to our electric house (built in the 70s, when “natural gas” was expensive 
and cars were small and bad, and crisis and energy were wedded like a very 
special molecule, maybe hope, but it passed). Say you got an island, 

say you got a free pass, say you went away and came back with a different
circulation, say dispersion is clarity shared among the living, the insight 
occurred at Starbuck’s with a collective cup gasp. Say it turned into 

the material of our unsuspecting lives, spread formations (the power I) that 
do and do not cohere to the shape of the human. What shape the human?
though you didn’t notice or care, being dumb, numb, overwhelmed by  

the constant buy in of yes, or no dice, no service. Say it was the thing 
in your hand blinking, a rectangular star made out of rare earths, enduring 
plastics, polyethylene casings like shells of a future crab scuttling 

across the floor of a silent sea. Selah! your velvety texture lubricates me 
with me: it is the rapture of our mutual life, and I will go to the bank
near the wood and become undisguised, I will bare our uniform hieroglyph.