Near and Far.The Teratogen Sonnet Series. Poem. Video. Norman Ball


“The death camps were not built in the Gobi Desert. And when barbarism challenged, the humanities, the arts, philosophic thought proved not only largely impotent but often collaborative with despotism and massacre,”

–George Steiner, from ‘A New Literacy’, The Kenyon Review, 24:1, Winter 2007, 10-24


Teratogen 1: Sex on the Brain


“Thy nakedness shall be uncovered,

yea, thy shame shall be seen…”—Isaiah 47:3


This mission is a sin. What kind of spaz-

tic draws vigor from pornographic veins

or penis-headed parodies of ass?


But you’re no baby, Baby. Holy weans

alive, I could not diaper your fine mess.

You soil all metaphor. I’ll author blame:

My labs, my country tis of thee. My shame

is writ uncovered on your face. No less

you’d scare Sears’ portrait guy.


And yet I’m drawn

to parse the prick that promenades your head.

They told us, Horus, Set, the Golden Dawn:


a Third Eye—neither naked, neither dead

of shameless form would, near the end, arrive

commending those whose fear brought it alive.


Teratogen 2: Cabbage Patch Moll


“Hence world picture, when understood

essentially, does not mean a picture of the

world but the world conceived and grasped

as picture.” –Martin Heidegger


You vandalize distress at no small cost

through nylon skein and cabbage patch

disguise. This manhunt though is long since lost.

All have been found. First paparazzi snatched


unguarded moments. Then we watched gray puffs

televise precision. Your face

is pixelated aftermath that stuffs

everything in the close-up. Common place


covers all bases. Where’s the intimate

to hide? The convict is a partial judge

on all subjects of visual merit. Split

my screen and your forehead suggests a smudge-

print. We share the mounting headcount’s ripe bruise.

For I no longer feel eyewitness news.


Teratogen 3: Thumbelina, Dance


“…advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” –from Project for a New American Century (PNAC) Manifesto, 2000


We vet foot bills. Are pissed-on borders worth

a mongrel birth? doG gone us Pentagon.

Hotdog Girl rolls so we might rule the earth?


Our barking men of outrage are all gone.

Lassie’s come home to her unleashing hour.

Stream? I cannot stream out into the streets.

Fluoride neutered all my upright power.

I’ll litter no more dog-days in these sheets.


Poor pup, you play dead well. No, we’ll not lift

you up. One burp and you could well explode

across complicit shoulders. To the swift

life opens up. As for an honest road

with cars to chase, let’s first define your legs.

Right now you are a thumb. How motion begs.


Teratogen 4: Waterboy


“No, you people are drinkin’ the wrong water.”

–from The Water Boy, the movie (1998)


 Suffer this baby floating on the earth

amphibious. Grace alone can mend

fluidic pustules. Please make haste. No berth

so wide of God, nor time-belabored End-


time should deflate ascent. Prospects look grim

for god-speed. Though we tire of boils and sore



Oh procrastinating seraphim,

whitewash no more. These mutants wash ashore.

Our amniotic seas now euthanize.


Please hear, oh Lord, water-boy’s gurgled cries.

His isotopic lungs cannot advance

beyond collapse. How does he stand a chance

of reaching Heaven, waterlogged on Earth?

The New Disorder liquefies at birth.


Teratogen 5: Burpee Girl


“Satan said: ‘I am not the one to prostrate

myself to a human being, whom You created

from sounding clay of altered black smooth

mud.” –Quran 15:30-35


Christian soldier, you battle your mortgage

with Abd al-Chuckee puppet-strings away,

sculpted like a Mujaheedin porridge

from amber waves of O, so gamma ray.


Our acronym-cadavers cyphered this.

The Pentagon got wind of ill-wind skies.

Re-baseline victory. All vectors miss

these eyesores too contained to leak out cries.


Children, don’t play! The cradle robs the grave

before the grave has time to rob your wild

unripened stares. Uranium defiled

His altered mud. God’s breath we, breathless, waive.


Dead verse tomatoes horror. Who’ll baptize

the Burpee Girl with ovulating eyes?


Teratogen 6: Improvised Existential Denouement (IED)


Up close you could be anybody’s child-

care scandal. Hamburger Hill limps beside

your fresh pink meat. While no one looked, life filed

your backstroke down to blisters. They will hide

your books in study hall. Who will arrest


this mutant form now terrorizing cells?

Without a clear and sewn-up threat the West

cannot hold the line. Deformity spells


doom. No tight-knit group of key advisors

props up your bloated puppet-string regime.

Sit up. Exude malevolence. Your sores

must find themselves else war will lose its steam


pressed irony. Don’t make us make Big Macs.

Cater our events. Weather our attacks.


Teratogen 7: Baby Skeletor (Brought to You by ‘Masters of the Universe’)


“Skeletor’s face accidentally got splashed with acid and he sacrificed his face to

survive.” –from ‘Masters of the Universe’, a Mattel media franchise


Before ill-winds impinged on faultless weather,

I had a barrow glazed with rain for you.

I’d wheel you to the bus-stop, but why lever

a father’s guilt atop your unhinged glue?


I’m loath to hold you up for God to see,

nor shower you with blue comforts. Why not flee

my too-short arms, your wails so out of key?

You scream small monster none the least at me.


I’ll prop you up at school if you insist.

But stand-up kids are cruel. They will resist

the womb’s last weapon, shrunken in their midst.

The universe won’t stoop. You are the grist

for chemistry swept under bazaar rug,

a Hazmat spill, the morning-after drug.
This series first appeared in The New Formalist, then Cinemension. Teratogen sonnets 5 and 7 will appear in ‘The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of sonnets of the early third millennium Friesen Press, Victoria, B.C., Canada, 2013.
NORMAN BALL (BA Political Science/Econ, Washington & Lee University; MBA, George Washington University) is a well-travelled Scots-American businessman, author and poet whose essays have appeared in Counterpunch, The Western Muslim and elsewhere. His new book “Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments” is available here. Two essay collections, “How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable?” and “The Frantic Force” are spoken of here and here. His recent collection of poetry “Serpentrope” is published from White Violet Press. He can be reached at All the Babble of the Souk. Robin Ouzman Hislop All the Babble of the Souk. Robin Ouzman Hislop

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