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prose poem

Truck Books
ISBN: 9780984885749
$15.00

Weapons catalog descriptions: cyberpunk, academic prose, fables, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex stopping a suicide bomber.  From these disparate sources Josef Kaplan creates Democracy is not for the People, his newest volume of poetry. Divided into four parts, the book confronts the unholy terrors of globalization, globalized terror, and mass-market homogeneity.  These confrontations utilize high and low culture, genre imitation, and the political broadside.

It is easy to see this as agitprop or a gimmick.  At first blush, Democracy would appear as more preaching to the converted for the ranks of the Occupy movement.  Kaplan’s politicized confrontations, constructed with a cunning ferocity, aspire to become more, since the lifespan of literature outlives flash-in-the-pan political movements, nation-states, and entire civilizations.

The cunning comes from the technique of pastiche.  Democracy’s first section, entitled Tilt-Shift, is an extended pastiche culled from numerous sources.  Varieties of prose styles come one after another.  Along with these samplings, there are stream-of-consciousness style riffs on religious practice, assassination, and capitalism.  In its own way, Democracy uses the raw materials of recklessly deregulated capitalism and extremist ideology against itself.

Kaplan’s leftism seems pretty obvious, but in one instance, a piece called The President, he inhabits the voice of the ideologically unhinged, a rant that begins as an anti-Bush tirade and ends with the narrator gloating about posting on Yahoo! message boards calling for President Obama’s assassination.  An earlier piece, Gifts of Cloaks, begins with the story of Kenji Urada, who, in 1944, was the first person killed by a robot.  It continues with the history of SWORDS (“Special Weapons Observation Detection System”) and the development of unmanned drones.  In the middle of this prose poem, we read an extended excerpt from a weapons catalog, listing several kinds of drones.  The robotic technology has been weaponized and then commodified, unmanned drones the cutting edge of late capitalism’s commodity-fetishism.  Like the Transformers toy line, there is something intrinsically cool about an unmanned weapon.  Are Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and the trend of using drones for assassination part of the same moral sickness?  Or are we too distracted by the technology’s futuristic awesomeness to actually care in the first place?

Tilt-Shift is a mélange of discourses, commingling highbrow and lowbrow. The next section plays on the same societal critique, but from a different angle.  Ex Machina is a list of suicide bomber attacks, but something foils all the attacks at the last moment.  They include, but are not limited to, the following: Athena, daughter of Zeus, terrestrial bacteria, a spontaneously appearing field of poppies, the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the sun chariot of Helios, the S.S. Heart of Gold, and the janitor from The Hudsucker Proxy.

When one reads these prose poems, one reacts with a kind of cognitive dissonance.  The tragic intermingles with the comic in perverse contamination of fact and fiction.  Each begins with a documentary description of the suicide attack and ends with intervention, divine or otherwise.  After a while, the long list of attacks numbs the reader, the pop culture interventions seeming like cutesy pop cultural references.  Then one realizes that these attacks did in fact happen, and there were no interventions.  Existential despair or laughter?

However, bad taste can operate as a means to illuminate the everyday, since the American news is now littered with random shootings.  With Aurora, the Sikh temple shooting, and other incidents, one realizes there is no Over There anymore.  Terrorism, like the Market, is omnipresent, seductive, and lethal. Democracy attempts to plumb the abyss created by deregulated markets and globalized violence.

Is Democracy the Howl for the Occupy generation?  The short answer is no. But should Democracy be the Howl for those Occupy protesters?  One hopes the reader will have a richer series of reference points than Allen Ginsberg’s verbally explicit indictment of Eisenhower-era conformity and nuclear paranoia.  Kaplan’s Democracy, in its self-conscious contamination of high and low culture, pop cultural references, and discursive pastiche, is a witty commentary on the present socioeconomic and political unpleasantness.  It’s also a well-written screed, parody, and ode to a world warped by failed states, failed economic systems, and failed theories.  This is not simple-minded agitprop, preaching to the converted, but a bracing slap in the face.

BARTAB: AN AFTERHOURS BALLAD
Two Handed Engine Press
118 p.
ISBN: 978-0982002001

Cesca Janece Waterfield’s poetry is palpably stunning at times. Raw and evocative, her debut book,  Bartab: An Afterhours Ballad (Two-Handed Engine Press) veers between profoundly personal poems about the nature of life fueled by substance abuse—and  a refusal to accept traditional boundaries—and the prose poem-narrative of two musicians floundering in a world that has little use for impractical brilliance. Her writing is sharp, incisive, and unsparing of self or society.

Stylistically, Waterfield is a direct descendant of postmodernist Denise Levertov. She’s also a singer-songwriter, which no doubt explains the intrinsic play of rhythm and sound in her lines. Drawing deeply from a lifetime of musicianship, Bartab begins to hum, early on, with a sort of subconscious soundtrack laced with blues-soaked Americana. Waterfield’s tone is conversational and unapologetic, and Bartab is concerned with prices and prisons. The price of refusing conformity, of obstinate recklessness in the pursuit of one’s dreams; the prisons that society surrounds us with and those we create ourselves. The book’s subjects wallow in romanticized cheap living while subtly building to the conclusion that all of this impoverishment comes with a staggering cost. In the story of characters Evie and Daniel, we are led, for example, to contemplate the domestic horror of a surgical procedure where a mere fifty bucks means the difference between proper anesthesia and toughing things out with a few valium:

That day, Daniel drove Evie to the clinic. The nurse had explained that Evie would have to remain at the clinic for three hours after the procedure. The anesthetic gas was powerful, she had cautioned over the phone, and monitoring was necessary to ensure the patient could be discharged. In the waiting room, Daniel squeezed Evie’s hand and looked into her face. “I’ll be right here,” he said. She disappeared into the back.

In a cramped office, Evie watched a video. When it was done, the nurse asked for $375, in money order or cash. Evie’s chest squeezed in panic. “They said bring three twenty five.” She looked down at the bills in her hand. “Three twenty five.”

The nurse was marking paperwork and said to her pen, “That’s for oral analgesic. Valium. If you want nitrous gas, it’s $375.” Inside her alarm, Evie’s thoughts coalesced. “I’ll take valium, then.”

The nurse looked up. “Instead of nitrous?” Evie nodded. Her hands were clenched on her thighs. The nurse consoled her, “At least with valium, you won’t have to wait long in the recovery room.” She circled something on the sheet. Evie remembered Daniel was waiting and she relaxed a bit.

On the ceiling was a poster of a kitten.

Early on in the book, in the mesmerizing Velocity, we are treated to glimpses of Evie’s childhood and adolescence:

I was sad but now I’m getting up wood grain below
my feet rises to swirl in my head swallow intentions
white cold porcelain of the tub’s lip I study the flowers
I painted on the shelf’s edge gorgeous pansies delicate
blooms with the correct number of petals because I
love biology sit up front get high with the grad students
maybe I’ll study neuroscience cure my sister’s epilepsy
I should mold some flowers from polymer clay no a clay I
will make I could patent it drive drive to Chesapeake
the dark Chesapeake earth smells round and sharp
simultaneously strange little animals (grim, they’re grim!)
dart through my headlights their eyes recognize me
they note my gift my head is awash in pictures what my
mother called vanity my father beat us my sister & me
differently I knew watching him beat her he understood
it was meditated it was math but for now I’m speeding
the Eastern Shore thuck thuck branch beneath the tires
thuck and I’m a girl

It’s Evie’s past, then, that largely, perhaps, informs her dealings with men (“I’m here cause Daniel said so”). Particularly heartbreaking is True Story, in which a drunken Evie triumphantly comes home to Daniel to announce, “I din spend any money, baby!”—proud of having gotten wasted without wasting any of their precious green.

It would be easy to despise Daniel but for Waterfield’s adroit painting of his character. Daniel is no villain, nor even a particularly bad man. He loves and tries to do right by Evie – but fails to shoulder his own burdens. From the prose poem-narrative A Prior Engagement:

The waitress reported back that she had a fresh bottle of Dalwhinnie and asked if he wanted one. Daniel thought about money and Evie’s smile. He ordered a double on the rocks. He saw no way to save it this time.

The metaphor of substance abuse as prison is well established, even overused. But Waterfield is effective in illustrating the rationalizations we make when in the throes of addiction. Consider:

These days were defined by a different kind of slide. Evie did not know what to do about it. She simply couldn’t put down a bottle of vodka once she’d screwed off its top. So she rationalized that going to bars with increasing frequency would put the quash on her habit. Because she would have to pay the tab at the end of the night…

And the frankly stunning (and harrowing) account of Drink:

Then you remember how you take it
and you want to pull it into you,
for it to work you over,
dusk shushing day.
There.
You’ve admitted it.
After you step out of sensation -
that silky dress -
shrug into shame,
and return, you recall the afternoon you
fucked the security guard on top of a parking garage
while a neighboring rooftop party saw and began to watch…
You imagine how it will feel,
not long from now…

When images meld, particulars scatter…

Your shoulders tense slightly
as you sense the clock’s progress,
its second hand shoving tenaciously forward.
You slap each minute down 25
like cards in hands of blackjack you win
and win and win…

Of course, the source of these demons is all too recognizable. Then there’s the too familiar background music of depression…(“The keening dirge/how long must I listen? When will we agree to stop pretending it is not there?”)… so delicately and heartbreakingly rendered in Portent, where:

To stretch long into the white spheres of stillness,
one must recall the clamor of hordes.
And as a single shiver descends
a body still ringing with warmth,
grief reaches into the air
to snap scenes between its sharp teeth:
snow flashing gold under sun,
the clattering limbs of the dog
loping into the brush, and I
at my window, watching birds yawp over seed
–as if we didn’t know the machination of sorrow;
how it stirs beneath even these days, waking,
rubbing its eyes with budding fists.

The final poem in the book is titled Memorial. It suggests a sober heroine looking back on her past with regret and wonder. Yet it is Evie’s passion—for music, for her own gifts as an artist—that finally drives her recovery, propelling her out of heartbreak and dissolution and back into the joy of existence, a

Congregation

I am coming a part of,
to wear as wing
of crow, clear
for landing, in my way. I rise
at the sudden clang of
yet another knell…
I fall down at altar as well as any, caw
swell as crow…

There are varied sorts of soldiers,
and on that day at last
the door whines open at my touch,
I want your face to look like Judas
and it’s the coming
of your god damned Lord.

Order Bartab: An Afterhours Ballad

 

An encounter it would have been gripping to see: the 1875 reunion, in Stuttgart, of Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, at the conclusion of the older poet’s two-year imprisonment in Belgium. (He had been convicted for firing on his lover and giving him a flesh wound in the wrist.)  Verlaine told his friends that, as soon as he was released, he made his way to Germany, hoping he would be able to persuade the younger poet to resume their travels and adventures together. When they stood face to face again, did they cry, did they jump up and down, cackling with laughter? Or, if there were bitter reproaches, did those come more from Verlaine or from Rimbaud?  Until time-travel is invented we won’t have answers because neither poet left a detailed record of the meeting, nor were there any witnesses. So much about relationships that crash and burn must always remain undiscoverable, even when the breakup happens in our own time. Fact in these cases abdicates, replaced by gossip, rumor, and, often enough, malice.  This universally acknowledged truth doesn’t seem to prevent us from assuming we’ve got the lowdown on what really happened, even when we’re not close to those involved.

Assuming Verlaine’s account is accurate, it seems that the 1875 meeting was the moment when Rimbaud entrusted the manuscript of Illuminations to him, with the request that it be sent to a friend of his in Brussels, who might be able to arrange for its publication. If Rimbaud didn’t trouble to send it himself, does that mean he wanted Verlaine to read it first and perhaps regard the work as some sort of compensation for the disaster their relationship had been?  Should we see in this book another literary transformation of their shared experience, the follow-up to A Season in Hell?  Or was Rimbaud seeking helpful critiques of the poems, still unaware that he had already outdistanced his poetic master? Did Rimbaud put the poems in the order assigned to them when eventually published, or did Verlaine and later editors who handled the ms. change that order?  Few books have been as persistently dogged by enigmas as Illuminations, a fact that puts it in a paradoxical relationship to its title.

If it’s true that Verlaine kept his promise and sent the poems to Rimbaud’s friend Germain Nouveau in Brussels (a letter of Verlaine’s complains about the postage costs), then at some point he must have retrieved them. We know that they eventually turned up in the hands of his brother-in-law in Paris.  Not Verlaine nor Germain Nouveau nor the brother-in-law, but instead editors who weren’t intimates of Rimbaud a decade later arranged for their publication in the Symbolist magazine La Vogue. Because the loose pages of the ms. weren’t numbered, these editors admitted to an uncertainty as to the order of the poems, except for a few that Rimbaud had transcribed on the same page.

Also, we have to take Verlaine’s word for it that the title his friend  wanted was Illuminations because the sheaf of poems Verlaine forwarded to others lacked a title page.  The book has sometimes been published under the title Les Illuminations, the standard form for a French-language title. However, Verlaine said that Rimbaud was using the English, not the French word, as he did in several individual poem titles (“Bottom” and “Fairy,” for example).  The older poet explained that “illuminations” in English referred to printed, hand-colored engravings, which were common at the period. Of course the term in both languages carries the more general sense of light and even mystical enlightenment, one version thereof being the occult belief and practice known as “Illuminism.”  In English “illuminations” can also refer to the hand-painted pictures and decorations found in medieval manuscripts, but whether Verlaine or Rimbaud was aware of this extra meaning, who can say? (The French term for these is enluminures.) Considering Rimbaud’s ironic and challenging temperament, it’s possible he wanted to make both senses of the English term available, as a way to suggest that his mysterious and even quasi-religious texts could also be compared to cheap popular prints.  The strategy of the young and not yet established poet is often to “have it both ways,” defending his most exalted thoughts with an electric fence of high-voltage irony.  Since we’re on the topic of electrical equipment, consider this interesting coincidence: the first incandescent light-bulb was made in 1874, and commercial distribution of the new invention began in 1886, the year when La Vogue first brought Illuminations to the French reading public. If it seems fanciful to conflate the two phenomena, recall that the most widely distributed light-bulbs in twentieth-century Europe were called Mazda bulbs, after the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda.

The central conflict in Zoroastrianism is figured as a struggle between the forces of darkness and light.  It seems fair to class Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell as a book about the forces of darkness, and so perhaps we can understand Illuminations as the poet’s effort to evoke—at least for poetry—the forces of light.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t flashes of beauty in the earlier book or that all is serenity and effortless ascension in the later one.  That would be too neat and monotonous, and besides, as Stevens put it, “No man of imagination is prim.”  The prose poems in Illuminations are rather short and the sequence develops no discernible narrative; instead, a series of dreamlike vignettes or meditations whose context is never provided.  More than half are descriptive, surveys of landscapes or cityscapes too imaginary and protean to exist in actuality, though they often include the equivalent of Marianne Moore’s “real toads.” The tone is generally exalted and hyperbolic, a cornucopia of images and words tumbling out rapidly in sentences with loosened syntax.  Apostrophes introduced by the exclamation “O” are frequent, yet the mosquito whine of irony is found in almost every poem, provoked in part by hyperbole and acting in part to neutralize it.  Thoroughly enigmatic as they are, the poems are the last to be aware of the fact, judging by the prevailing tone of confidential assurance and the absence of any fumbling efforts at explanation.  We may not understand them, but it’s clear that these poems understand themselves, giving meanwhile the curious impression that they can survive and even thrive without our assistance.

Rimbaud is an often-translated poet and many distinguished hands have made versions of Illuminations, Louise Varèse and Paul Schmidt among them.  Ashbery’s versions are strikingly better than his predecessors, which isn’t surprising when you consider that he resided for a decade in Paris and that he has also successfully translated the poetry of Reverdy and of his friend Pierre Martory.  Add to that Ashbery’s own unconventional literary mastery, and he would seem to be the ideal author to negotiate the difficulties of a poet who inspired a century of poetic experiments, continuing up to the present.  Ideal for us; but you have to wonder why a poet so eminent, so thickly swathed in laurel (he has won every important poetry prize except for the Nobel) should want to take time away from his own work to provide us with this topnotch version of Illuminations. The brief introduction Ashbery provides for this book offers no explanation apart from his thorough admiration for Rimbaud. Still, admirers can admire profoundly without bothering to translate.  I’m guessing that he undertook the task as a way of reminding readers hostile to his own poetry that experimental (or dreamlike, difficult, fragmented, disjunctive, enigmatic—whatever term seems applicable) poetry has been around for a century and a half. If you want to dismiss Ashbery, you also have to dismiss Rimbaud and the Surrealists, plus all the Modernists in various molds who were influenced by him.  It no longer makes any sense to call this kind of poetry the “avant-garde” or the “poetry of the future,” at least no more so than the poetry based on narrative, spoken language, prosody, and sequential reason. Both approaches will be used in the future, as they have been during the past. Some readers will prefer experimental, and another part, mainstream approaches, so there’s no point in trying to legislate an aesthetic Prohibition against either.

It goes without saying that some practitioners of mainstream poetry are better than others, just as it’s reasonable to assume that experimental poetry is sometimes good and sometimes not. Yet critics of experimental work don’t seem to have arrived at a practical criticism capable of sifting the large amount of experimental writing now being produced in order to put aside what’s not worth reading and to make a case for the part of it that’s good. All the alternative critics seem to be able to do at present is repeat any number of times that traditional approaches to poetry are old and therefore irrelevant or inferior. When it comes to the experimental aesthetic, they don’t offer a set of evaluative principles as familiar and dependable as the criteria used to analyze and assess mainstream work.  Given the antinomian and deconstructive nature of experimental writing, its resolute effort to undermine orthodoxy and consensus perception, we can question whether any individual or critical school could ever develop an agreed-on set of yardsticks applicable to it.  However, if adequate critical tools aren’t devised, then criticism will simply amount to “I like this” and “I don’t like that.” A purely personal criterion might be acceptable if we weren’t faced with the real-world problem of public rewards. Which poets should be published, and, among those, which should receive prizes and artist fellowships, including grants based on state funding?  Perhaps most experimental poets write without conscious concerns like these; but critics who ignore them aren’t acting responsibly.

 

Almost all of the Illuminations are prose poems, a form first tried by the French poet Aloysius Bertrand, then taken up with notable success by Baudelaire and Mallarmé.  That the poems are short and don’t rely on traditional French prosody lightens the burden of translation, with the result that a lot of time can be spent on finding the aptest word choices and pleasing sentence rhythms.  Ashbery handles both with cool but remarkable skill. A sample:

In an attic where I was shut up at the age of twelve I got to know the world. I illustrated the human comedy. In a cellar I learned history. At some nighttime carnival in a Northern city, I met all the wives of the master painters. In an arcade in Paris I was taught the classic sciences. In a magnificent abode surrounded by the entire Orient I accomplished my immense opus and spent my illustrious retirement. I churned my blood. My homework has been handed back to me. One must not even think of that now. I’m really beyond the grave, and no more assignments, please.

(part III of “Lives”)

Without arguing that this is the strongest passage in Illuminations, I can still see in it many of the work’s preoccupations, not to say obsessions: singular and perhaps visionary experience recalled from childhood; the mind’s susceptibility to rapid scene changes in space and time; a chest-thumping celebration of self that is nevertheless undercut by sly mockery; and the sense that the poem’s speaker has gone beyond the normal confines of human experience into something beyond reason and civility.

To translate is to interpret, and the reader who knows French will see that Ashbery’s “My homework has been handed back to me” (his reading of “Mon devoir m’est remis,”) could also be rendered as “My duty has been restored to me.”  In the poem’s final sentence, “pas de commissions” becomes “no more assignments, please.” But it could also be rendered as “no errands/messages/shopping lists.” Ashbery has added “more” and “please,” for sense, rhythm, and tone, but those words aren’t found in the original.  I cite this not as a fault but as evidence that he has tried throughout to make versions that are plausible as poems in English.  I was struck again and again how he passed over a reflexively dull equivalent to the French word in favor of something more idiomatic and non-routine.  That said, I also noticed several instances where non-cognates were translated as though they were cognates. Non-cognates are what the French call “faux amis,” “false friends,” words that look as though they meant the same in English and French, but actually don’t; for example, “actuellement,” which doesn’t mean “actually” but instead, “at present.”  Here are a few translations I had doubts about in this version: désert isn’t usually “desert,” but instead “wilderness”; pourpre isn’t so much “purple” as “crimson”; honnêteté isn’t merely “honesty” but rather “probity” or “integrity”; sciences need not be limited to “sciences” but can also mean “studies” or “disciplines”; cellier isn’t strictly “cellar,” but more properly “wine-cellar” or “storeroom.”  Apart from the “false friends,” there are a couple of other misleading translations. For example, faubourg and banlieue are both rendered by Ashbery as “suburbs,” but the right sense for the first is “district,” (as in “Garden District”) or “quarter” (as in “French Quarter”); and for the second, “outskirts of town” or “periphery.” Also, the word jour, when translated as “day” isn’t necessarily wrong; but in many contexts it means “dawn,” “daylight” or simply “light.” As the last word of Illuminations (at least, in the editorial order for the poems that Ashbery has adopted here) it seems probable that Rimbaud meant “dawn” or “light” when he wrote of the emblematic and redemptive figure that he calls “Genie”:

He has known us all and loved us all. Let us, on this winter night, from cape to cape, from the tumultuous pole to the castle, from the crowd to the beach, from glance to glance, our strengths and feelings numb, learn to hail him and see him, and send him back, and under the tides and at the summit of snowy deserts, follow his seeing, his breathing, his body, his day.

Translations of poetry are always in one way or another inaccurate. The reviewer with a sense of responsibility to the author being reconceived in English has the uncomfortable duty (homework?) of pointing out instances where the translation isn’t perfectly congruent with the original. This is done not in order to show superiority but to suggest that real interest, real love for a poet must inevitably inspire readers to learn the original language. When people tell me they don’t care for Dante, I ask them if they know Italian; none of the translations conveys all that can be found in his own idiom. By the same token, any reader astonished and moved to tears by Rimbaud will, I hazard, want to acquire a knowledge of the language and culture thatproduced the strength and beauty they’ve glimpsed through a door that translation has partially opened.  It goes without saying that the project demands a large commitment of time and energy that few can spare.  Meanwhile, those who haven’t had the luck to acquire a true working knowledge of the language and the thematic preoccupations of French literature can even so get a very good sense of Rimbaud’s Illuminations from Ashbery’s version, which is the best we have in English so far.

 

Allezallez, I leave a radio like a light on for my return from campus the way Mrs. Snediker left Katie Couric velveteening for the golden retrievers who might well prefer less Katie more quiet, all the more so as hours melt the morning, Katie becoming more nasal, less paid television friend versions of herself. I like returning to my radio friends. In lieu of dogs I dote on this ghoulish sadness that cares beyond itself, punctiliously, about Katie Couric’s heels; it astounds me upon my  return that the ghoulish sadness can be so dire when it comes to the world’s hostile, dubious relation to my buoyance, but out of nowhere is oh wow, those shoes. The things on which it has opinions. Gay sadness, the leashes I give. That’s the sadness, the radio in part being on for it,  to keep it occupied in my absence; ditto my returns from campus, suggesting without much strain that I am the ghoulish sadness, lonely and the occasion of loneliness all at once; I can’t bear the quiet, antsiness moving quickly to the narcissism of really liking the sadness in its reflection without realizing it in fact is reflection, bracketing whatever psychoanalysis says about the jubilance of this specular moment, and when I return from  teaching, the radio is playing one of my favorites, a Mendellsohn concerto, the one where Felix is throwing plates at Cécile Jeanrenaud, and then at the surprising tail end of aTempo semplice, he accuses her in English of never truly having communicated the extent of her loyalty. She insists in broken German she thought her loyalty a given. At which point all of her languages break, she riffles through them for one that seems fluent,  but duress has made fluency itself the thing that is missing. If only I were articulate slipping (fluently) into if only I were fluentif only I were graceful,  or does this mean if only he a bit more were grateful. The radio, she can’t stand, she doesn’t even understand radios, their being beyond her time, even as her predicament requires technologies she can barely conjure. Sometimes I leave the radio on as a nostalgic technology, the sort of thing that might have assuaged someone many decades previous, to the extent that this could trick the ghoulish sadness into believing if not its own anti-macassar quaintness than its kitsch factor which would be the first step in my learning to take it less seriously. And so the radio. And of course as I teach I’m distracted, Poor Cécile, the world being unkind, what can she say to assuage her husband’s sense that things get more brittle as each attempt at lubrication or leavening ends up freaking things out. We needed out-moded technologies to convince us that the things they solved weren’t  beyond our ken, or what several decades ago we nonironically called cutting edge. Solitude, like music, arrived as movement and directive. This loneliness was allegro, this one subito. And as I turn the key with real and dirty fantasies of contact, of ceramic projectile, another plate remembers crashes.

Michael Snediker’s poems have appeared and/or forthcoming in Cream City, Court Green, Jubilat, Paris Review, Black Warrior Review & Margie. His latest chapbook BOURDON will be published by White Rabbit Press.

A missing Pleiades in the viewable cluster of stars cannot deny us motion though we cannot master its name: there is something you are not telling me standing at the standing stone detained neither by chicken wire nor the upright megalith we imagine pulsing and in so thinking feel the earth beneath us breathe: looking at anyone on the strip mall concourse I can imagine pausing in front of a mirror to let down his pony tale with his my hands pulling down her blouse to our waist but the thirst from being 25¢ short for the vending machine and the dull anxiety of strangers coming to speak with me is my own: the land around the standing stone half browning grass half greening turf folds into itself for miles and I don’t know what season it is.