Spree MacDonald

Colony Collapse Syndrome

as we squat through slum
rise slum set
in this labor hood of Atlantis
I wonder how much sun one needs
to see to say she’s seen it set

this life in the house of bees
a simple stock fortified by light
oblique as it ends it seems
she gathers strength in fading
     don’t just expect to die
she sighs but
    know that you’ll also be

these are the stories the dead
tell themselves

one night in exile
she made small circles 
with her heels in the bed sheets
like a finger over crystal lips
she swirled until a slow-found
center coalesced into a sugar storm
flowed over our hovel
at the top of the stairs

so much unwaged 
    labor boiled 
    off into the wallpaper

she said

it’s true it smelled
of boxes in there
soft power and echo chamber music
the semiotics of assault rifles 
our shoulders dry rubbed 
with anesthetic saltrash
and technocrats

now this poorly lit paradise
a Molotov wick soaking 
in the oily abyss

so many small engines after dark
charge hard between herbicide lines
in febrile fight or flight
it seems this coast is the same
latitude as my dreams
dukkha music

I’m tired for tomorrow



Up Country 

we shoot the sedan between
sun smolders tonight
thin rip of tires
clay shoulder and pine forest beside
as we ride up country on tender
strips of evening
each suckling a cluster 
of nerves

the cool of spent emotions
dash light at dusk
the coast beats loose behind us
what passed in the rearview 
could be a wave or a mountain range
she says it’s just 
   a cruise ship on the river
   a green dot mirage

still it seems somehow we 
escaped the blast radius
as if Atlantis was a sacrifice 


in these baker’s hours
who might we meet on the highway
Olamina and her Earthseed survivors
Matigari in his belt of peace
or more of us
shock doctors and scavengers
scar avengers
suborn officious instruments of every 
tasty takeover?

what falls between my blinders
seems to be second hand suffering
processed floods and prorated blues
she says the colonial
cold chain is encrypted
even the Data Thieves can’t hack it
it’s as deep as this cartographic disorder
that keeps all roads pointing to the coast

yet she says there’s no need to defect
to burn bridges when
rot work just as well
that the story will wither
in its own time
release its pieces to the stars

but I do not know 
the science of the stars
nor the wounds from which
the days descend from heavens
though it’s June 
in the first flesh of the millennium 
and this highway turns blue 
morning towards our knees

while she rests her neck between 
islands tonight
dreams tides until the day
spreads up her legs as land
I steer into the morning 
star jiggling through 
the emulsified light
draw its thick throb 
through my fingers as it spreads
the small bones of my wrists
smolders like white phosphorous 
up my chest

perhaps we’re doomed to cruise
these bone spurs into oblivion
perhaps up country
we’ll find a bigger raft
to stand on
who knows if the Nother World 
is even parse-able

perhaps regardless so be it
I’ll squeeze the wheel until
it comes out running
squeeze until it comes running out
for there’s a seashell 
or a cowbell 
at the bottom of it




after Thomas Sayers Ellis

"Every time you hear an expansive white man drop 
into his version of black English, you are in the presence 
of blackface’s unconscious return”
-Eric Lott

we bob our butts to 
the oldtime band
in the festival Free Tent 
as they string up “Ol Susanna” 
for our post-mortem tastes
white folks we 
clappin on the 1 & 3
droppin into minstrel speak
       don’t you cry for me!
       I come from Alibami 

with hip vengeance

in the pregnant pause 
between song and sentiment
Konkababy snuggles up 
flops her lip-stuck face
over mine and 
breaths right through me 

    something to be said
    or the minstrel cycle
    coming back like Fat
    Tuesday krewes
    white linen nights
    Old Daddy Rice 
    his Tupelo baby

    sing don’t you 
    cry for me!

me I’m thinking it’s
attenuated Lenonisms
white album on repeat    
she says
    woman is the [euphemism] of the world    

perhaps it’s blast-fem-me
but I love this theft
these klu klux klassics
homespun blood and chocolate
try to sing my sorrow songs
and it’s like I’m playing 
fuzzy bunny with a face full of
cotton bolls and cotton blends
cotton condoms or some 
synthetic derivation thereof

I fondle the stock goblins 
and night terrors of my youth 

    a banjo on my knee!

Spike said it
these klassics core us
bend us into hip-ster bliss
bamboozled blues
I cruise white latitudes

Konkababy digs her thumb 
into the soft flesh of my reflection
incants her cackle sermon on 
washboard and banjo claw
    as God is my whiteness
    created in my likeness
    a terror cotton warrior
    conquering hearts and mimes

some funhouse daymare
this plantation revenant
it water boards me each 
time I turn around

every time I jump 



Headwaters of Hurt

way back 
in the headwaters of hurt
I had not yet learned to wrap
my mind like pipes 
before the freeze 
to leave my taps 
dripping at bedtime 
or kneel southeast and pray 
for Fela Ransome
Kuti as his bootstraps 
pulled me up 

I woke up waved at
cold-cocked into morning
like a sleeve of saltines
crumbled open from sleep
cantilevered dream shadows or
crosshatched eyelids and kidneys
I slipped forward and felt the
morning break clean a space for me

she said she was a birder
held out hands for freaks of nurture
tickled the morning open for 
disaster capitalists like me
all those high drama haircuts
vanilla bombs
trahison des clercs
beneath the bone cloud cover
it was a gray matter giveaway

in that capitol of cronies
blowhards resurfaced in schools
swallowing New-Owl-Leans
with stylized suffering

slathered in essential oils
I ate until the day took its shape in me
but swamp doctor that she was
she said in this tort culture
I was a tortoise
if I slugged so solemn
it would time me out

so maybe I was slow poked
slow played in the face of change
but since we insinuated ourselves 
into the neighborhood
it seemed history left me senseless
unable to read its hidden transcripts
mesmerized by flood
mesmerized by fire
afraid to be alone with our thoughts
could never tell what was appropriate
what was appropriated

still I sop
kick the curb with my blunder toe
hit that abyss drum and await its report


Thoughts on “Klassiks,” “Up Country,” “Colony Collapse Syndrome,” and “Headwaters of Hurt.” 

By Spree MacDonald. 

These poems plumb the anxieties of a colonial class near the end of its run. Their coastal colony, a “labor hood of Atlantis”, is sinking and soaked with the oils and echoes of the human and ecological conquest that gave this class life. In the “gray matter giveaway of the original conquest, the speaker, as all colonists, was born as he, “ate until the day took its shape in me.”  Though the colonists consider heading upland to escape “the blast radius” of the post-colonial meltdown, and to find “a bigger raft to stand on”, their attempted extrication is fraught by their realization that their exile would mean their extinction. They cannot exist as themselves without the “homespun blood and chocolate”, of their colonial violence and the parasitic relations it established. These “suborn officious instruments of every/tasty takeover”, realize they are nothing—culturally, economically, or existentially—without their colony. 

The last course of the colonial feast accordingly turns sickening as the colonists are met with their own undeniable downfall. As they continue to “cruise white latitudes,” amidst the “soft power and echo chamber music” of the late colony, the speaker finds himself “fondl[ing] the stock goblins/and night terrors of [his] youth.”  And the colonists’ revelry thus spins and spins into “some funhouse daymare”, as “so many small engines after dark/charge hard between herbicide lines/in febrile fight or flight.”  Amidst “[T]he semiotics of assault rifles,” every urge towards escape or escapism is tainted by the din of their demise. The colonists of Atlantis thus edge towards oblivion in “this poorly lit paradise/a Molotov wick soaking /in the oily abyss.”


Spree MacDonald lives in New Orleans and is the Chair of the Humanities Department at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. His poetry has been published and is forthcoming throughout the world in journals such as RHINO, New Coin Poetry, Transition Magazine, and Berkeley Poetry Review, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.