Well, the dog needs bossing, also the baseball practice (batting balls) and the plumber on the copper pipes (he looks like a man who enjoys a good banging) and the general lack of cheese, shredded. Suddenly there is a rash of either lost cell phones beneath couch cushions or fleeing blackbirds on wing and car doors slamming all around our block and I think to myself this is it, they are coming to take me away. I hold my breath waiting for my garage door to rattle open, loose teeth of nuts and bolts falling, wondering how I am going to get at my toothbrush now that my illicit lover has locked herself into the bathroom (they do this, eventually). But then the government truck farts and rumbles off, there must have been another opportunity at the Walmart across the road. I want to be arrested so that I can read books of poetry, right through from the beginning to the end.
Example, Predatory, by Glenn Shaheen. (It had another more melodramatic title, Shaheen told me, but I forget the exact. It was a beery evening. [I think])
This book is paranoid. Or maybe just ill that way with perception.
All night, a howl
outside the window. All night an animal
Look, I have to drive off to the cafe to buy some cat food, or fetch my grandfather from judo, or this very book of poetry lands on the lawn covered in blood. I unfold it, and out fall foaming KILLING MACHINE and THE PAGE ON WHICH THE SPINE IS BROKEN, MONSTROUS, SUDDENLY, A BOTTOMLESS PIT, black widow spiders, PREDATORY, and ACCIDENTAL INJURY AND THOSE WHO ARE LIABLE.
By the middle of the night the grass is still red because these are all titles from the book, Predatory, except for the black widows, I just added that for effect. But look at all the paranoia and the violence and the blood, I mentioned the blood. I like a book to know itself and be a thing. This book is a violent machine mirror thing and you can see CNN inside it, but also the way CNN is your spleen, you know? Like everything that revolts your brain only works because your brain has to go, yes, there’s a little bit of me-cell there, a little CNN inside all our acronyms, no matter the AKAs we wear most every day. We asked for this, Shaheen is saying.
I’ve forgotten who I am a few times.
From surgery, from drugs.
We’ve been sucked
into the latest story in the great saga of fire.
(Introducing Love into the Fragile Texas Ecosystem)
One time Gleen Shaheen said he sent this book out either 200 or 1,000 times. Wait, it had to be 200. Yeh, I bet it was 200 but costs like $1,000 to do so. There’s a reality there, you know. The way these things get done, have to get done, will be done, something. It’s a path a book of poetry takes, a meandering sometimes, a fit and starts. The origin story of a book interests me. There should probably be an interview series, or a blog, or whatnot ONLY about origin stories of books. How it got there, to that artifact. I bet there already is such a blog, right? Well, I apologize. Though not really. No.
In “The Longest Day of the Year” Shaheen writes, “From here things only get worse. Your friends divorce. Your family dies./Disease. Crumbling ground over a deep chasm. You aren’t able to run/anymore.”
Ah, that one hurt me. To not be able to run anymore. To sink, that way.
There’s a lot of burning, but there’s a lot to burn out there. We’ve built a lot of things. And to keep from burning. And to never…still, it will burn. So paranoia–that word again–becomes awareness. There’s an argument here, not didactic, not even wanting to be, just this way a thing builds. Repetition is a brick, you know. They wall a thing. They rise. Some forces are so large they bleed into a poet’s consciousness. They inform every poem.
Then THINGS FALL APART.
A book of poems is a book, not a collection of poems. It accumulates, gathers into a FORCE or PUSHING or like if you threw the book at a wall, it would scratch there, but then imagine the INSIDES of the book, propelling, the concepts, the words, the forms and functions, like they would go through the drywall, or the fake rock, or out the other…expand like the copper mushroom around the lead, a bullet (compression forms) I mean, metaphorically, but if it HITS you as you read, moves synapses, rattles acetylcholine, is it metaphorical at all? What is it to MOVE?
As though there were an interruption.
(The Page on Which the Spine is Broken)
are invaded like this all the time.
(What Can we Know from the Footage the News Replays)
There was only a public outcry
When the hedge animals started to collapse
on themselves. The “check brake fluid” light is on again
you tell me. I am not a mechanic.
(Accidental Injury and Those Who Are Liable)
You know, I was helping judge a poetry contest a while back and I got this batch of poems and read and read and when done said to someone, “Damn, everyone was writing about trees and shit. Where are the iPhones? I know some of these people own iPhones.”
So I enjoyed Shaheen immersing me in a world I know, of course I know it, know it well.
TV specials (talk about an oxymoron)
But I’ll be down at the coffee shop, drinking, you know, coffee. Writing down something crass like, “I want to be arrested…”
Oh, do you?
Do you now?
Anyway, as Shaheen writes, “I have a real tendency to ramble.” (Unlimited)
I’d like to end by saying I arrive to poetry for many reasons. But always the push. I love the push and thump in the line. This book is loaded with kicky. It sometimes seems poetry reviews should be written in poem form. I mean I feel like excerpting these lines doesn’t get to the thing I’m saying, but, trust me, I guess. If you want modern krunch, that frenetic thing that attacks us, that is inescapable, unfortunately. I mean I guess I think Predatory is a Predator drone. That’s it, watching us.
A gurney pulls
you slowly down an empty street.
Juxtaposed off a title like,
(IN YELLOWKNIFE, AN INTUIT MAN IS SUSPECTED OF SNEAKING INTO HOMES AT NIGHT AND CUTTING OUT THE ORGANS OF PEOPLE FOR FOOD)
In photos, Earth
is an iris drowned in pupil. A crushing black. The
unfurling of a deep fog. There’s something formal
about the muzzle of a gun, I’ve always said, having
never held one.
On and on, the jumps, the cuts, the examination of the jump-cutted. It’s what poetry can do, the cutting I mean. The blood. But that’s OK, just…A buzzing above. A buzzing. What is that?