By John Gosslee
Rain Mountain Press
The tree lay down
on the garage roof
and stretched. You
have your heaven,
it said, go to it.
–William Carlos Williams, The Hurricane
Maybe World War II ends earlier if white lab-coated William Carlos Williams scrawls “The Hurricane” longhand on the back of each issued prescription drug ticket? Mrs. Myrtle, patiently waiting in queue for Penicillin, flips her note to discover what I consider the philosophical equivalent of the sentiment “All Dogs Go to Heaven”. I assert Mrs. Myrtle would feel more alive, even for a minute. She might show the pharmacist or a child behind her recovering from whooping cough. She might read it to Mr. Myrtle while he sleeps fully-dressed, pretending to listen to The Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald’s chart-topping hit I’m Making Believe on the radio. Eventually everyone in Rutherford, New Jersey might begin faking joint discomfort simply to visit Dr. Williams, have him perform that nifty knee mallet reflex test.
Though he doesn’t practice medicine (yet) John Gosslee is a poet and the editor of Fjords Review. His second collection, Blitzkrieg, is a fascinating hybrid of new locale poems and an impressive supplemental memoir. Most of the book traces his obsession with one particularly Williams-esque poem (Portrait of an Inner Life) from state code examples VA, TN, AR, OK, TX, NM, AZ, CA to multiple No Trespassing properties in between. Other noted editors–Rattle’s Tim Green, for instance–publish and praise the minimalist piece. Gosslee’s preoccupation with this one poem manages to avoid solipsism because Gosslee decides to enact what all writers probably want to do going back to Sappho: roll up good work, bottle, cork, fling the recyclable object into different water outlets (rivers, oceans, bays, streams, cricks, sewer systems), and hope somebody who needs it receives it.
On April 8 we drove down a one way road to an abandoned-dock-turned-arts-district underneath the San Francisco Bridge and I threw two dozen bottles into the mouth of the bay towards the Pacific. Two people in the area have found bottles. The other 22 are still unaccounted for, which I like because it allows me to muse on where they might appear or where they are in the ocean.
It’s like Robert Pinksy’s Poem-A-Day Project except it’s the same poem. Oh, Gosslee also prints 1300 stickers of the poem and affixes those to pretty much any city apparatus you can think of: storefront, light pole, condom dispenser.
With half a box full of stickers in the back seat and a few cases of bottles left, I drive to Albequerque, New Mexico. Out of my element, I attended the Blackbird’s Poetry & Beer poetry slam after reading at Bookworks early in the evening on April 3rd. The weather was a little chilly, the audience was receptive and I was glad they let a newcomer doing traditional poetry assert his method. In return, I gave out seven stickers I had in my pocket, but kept one to stick on the advertisement plaque above the urinal in the bathroom before leaving.
Like Huck Finn, Gosslee nearly gets arrested on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. I’m not going to print the poem in this review because that would be a bit of a killjoy, now, wouldn’t it? I’m hoping you more or less find it yourself, perhaps stuck out of the mouth of a brown trout swimming the Pere Marquette river. As for me, I find mine at Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort. I order a Red Stripe but I receive Portrait of an Inner Life. The waiter is sorry and serves me a Red Stripe (on the house) that’s been sitting on dry ice and perhaps dead crabs. “Two free libations,” I tell my wife while she sleeps half-naked and pretends to listen to Mogwai’s jaw-dropping non-hit “Take Me Somewhere Nice”.