John Burgess

[Ballad of James Acord]


Sometimes alone.
Sometimes in clusters. Sometimes

in parallel but a lifetime apart. Sometimes
sinking. Sometimes afloat. “There are

2 parallel paths on which human beings
seek the truth.” Sometimes tangled

in each other’s hair. Sometimes oblivious.
Sometimes replicas coming off a conveyor

belt upstream. “I wanted to be able to identify
and imagine how everything I saw was made.”

Sometimes punk. Sometimes Li Po
folded into paper boats. “Demonstrate

the ancient link between art and
technology.” Sometimes mammalian

noses just above drowning. Sometimes
a Cold War that never ended. “Science

and art, art and science—they’re
just two spokes going into the center

of the Karma Wheel.” Sometimes a rodeo.
Sometimes a Veteran’s Day parade.

Sometimes loose-cannon protons released
from larger atoms looking to start

a chain reaction. “We have not stolen
anything. We have just learned about it.”

Sometimes long stretches like nothing is
wrong. Sometimes failure takes years. “If

you want to make things, if you want to
create things, everything is hazardous.”


Samples: James Acord as quoted in “Looking for Acord,” The Observer (July 1998) and “James Acord: Atomic Artist,” Nuclear News (November 2002).


JOHN BURGESS grew up in upstate New York, worked on a survey crew in Montana, taught English in Japan and now lives and works in Seattle. He has three books of poetry from Ravenna Press: Punk Poems (2005), A History of Guns in the Family (2008) and Graffito (2011).

John will be reading from Graffito at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle on Friday, July 27, at 7:00, along with Raul Sanchez and Lana Hechtman Ayers.


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