A View Lodges

Poetry / Ryan Clark

:: A View Lodges [i] ::

Amer­i­ca is a field expand­ed over air­waves soft­en­ing dis­tinc­tions between Amer­i­can and Por­tuguese pop cul­ture, a line from Pow­er Rangers to the base to the island.  

There is a swirl of forces assem­bling from a child­hood shared in the nego­ti­a­tion of foreignness. 

What views are held with very lit­tle fric­tion.   

What sparks. 

For years, civil­ians work at the base, form a mesh that grows. 

Atti­tudes are acquired, fed, made nat­ur­al as land sur­round­ing a flag.  

Lajes, in the fold of ocean floors, far off from con­ti­nen­tal pow­ers, is an Amer­i­ca you feel under your roof at night. 

Ear­li­er, Lajes stood as a bas­ket of well-off Amer­i­cans dropped on an island of poor farmers. 

How a gap demands clo­sure, how advan­tage is played. 

A tran­sient face can be dif­fi­cult to make out of a uniform. 

So con­tracts rose from a nego­ti­a­tion to resolve what it is to use as a for­eign shield your home.  

So the for­eign­ness of the field poured out, drew peo­ple in. 

So cars paved Azore­an freeways. 

So Ter­ceira is a land relo­cat­ed with ben­e­fits.  

From a base, we gath­er the trust of econ­o­my, live in the shad­ows of aircraft. 

A man says if the Amer­i­cans ever were to leave he’d fol­low, stars and stripes soft­ly woven into his cap.  

What is formed with such use. 

[i] Homo­phon­ic trans­la­tion of a U.S. Depart­ment of State cable titled “Azore­an Views on Lajes,” sent on Feb­ru­ary 1, 1974, and lat­er released as part of U.S. Depart­ment of State EO Sys­tem­at­ic Review on June 30, 2005.



From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems come from a project that inves­ti­gates envi­ron­men­tal con­t­a­m­i­na­tion stem­ming from the pres­ence of Lajes Field Air Force Base, an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary base on Ter­ceira Island in the Azores, an arch­i­pel­ago in the mid-Atlantic that func­tions as an autonomous region of Por­tu­gal. In writ­ing these poems, I used a unique method of homo­phon­ic trans­la­tion which relies on the re-sound­ing of a source text, let­ter by let­ter, accord­ing to the var­i­ous pos­si­ble sounds each let­ter is able to pro­duce (e.g., “cat” may become “ash” by silenc­ing the c as in “indict,” and by sound­ing the t as an sh sound, as in “ratio”). The source texts for these poems are giv­en as foot­notes in the poems them­selves, and they include news arti­cles about the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion (often from ques­tion­able sources, includ­ing Russ­ian news agen­cies well known for spread­ing pro­pa­gan­da and sto­ries that serve the pur­pos­es of the Russ­ian government—such as, for instance, neg­a­tive sto­ries against the Unit­ed States). Oth­er sources include archived cables and oth­er doc­u­ments from the U.S. State Depart­ment, acces­si­ble through Wikileaks. 

I lived on Ter­ceira when I was a kid, from 1992 – 1996, while my father was sta­tioned at the base. My fam­i­ly lived in the towns Fonte do Bas­tar­do and Pra­ia da Vitória pri­or to mov­ing on base mid­way through our time on the island. Pra­ia, in par­tic­u­lar, has been not­ed as bear­ing the brunt of the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, with a num­ber of peo­ple in the town devel­op­ing cancer—though explic­it con­nec­tions between the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and can­cer rates remain a sub­ject of debate.  

I aim to work through these poems with the doc­u­men­tary mind­set of poets like Mark Nowak and Muriel Rukeyser, though I am also inter­est­ed in the idea of “decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion” as a duty we are increas­ing­ly called upon to perform—whether it be through increased media lit­er­a­cy (hyper-vig­i­lant to avoid fake news on social media) or through fac­ing our own nos­tal­gias that obscure what we see with what we’ve hoped to con­tin­ue see­ing. As such, I want these poems to serve as a form of inquiry rather than attempts to answer. 



Ryan Clark writes much of his work using a unique method of homo­phon­ic trans­la­tion, and he is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in how poet­ry responds to vio­lence and sub­ju­ga­tion, sym­bol­ic and oth­er­wise. He is the author of How I Pitched the First Curve (Lit Fest Press, 2019), and his poet­ry has recent­ly appeared in Inter­im, Barza­kh, DIAGRAM, Four­teen Hills, and Posit. He cur­rent­ly teach­es cre­ative writ­ing at Wal­dorf Uni­ver­si­ty in Iowa.