Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hand to Mouth: Kristy Bowen's the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013) & Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014)

Dear (r),

Is it thawing out where you are?  Our snow is finally melting, revealing, once again, the autumn leaves.

This past Halloween, a lot of things happened (nothing happened).  I tried to make a stir fry and did not "wok" it, to say the least.  A group of trick-or-treaters in suits declared that they were dressed up as pharmaceutical business owners.  And I read Kristy Bowen's gorgeous prose-poetic collection of interlocking fairy tales, the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013).  I would've written you, but there's something about the book that resists interpretation, the way other people's dreams resist interpretation:

AUTUMN works every angle.  Kills every
angel.  The blonde girl skips class, hangs out
in the bathroom and smokes cigarettes,
presses her lips against the mirror.  Her life
eddies and pools in the hollows of her
bedroom.  The bears make too much noise at
night, tipping garbage cans and lowing in the 
dark.  She dreams a lake at the bottom of a
staircase.  Dreams a door at the bottom of a
lake.  The rabbit man stands in his window
silently and watches her as she hangs the wash
on the line.  She sighs and places her hand on
the damp back of her neck.


The collection inverts itself, angle to angel and back again.  The internal manifests in and as and through the world of dreams, beasts, archetypes: "Every shoebox marked open me" (10); "Hundreds of bears lumber outside her/windows.  Her mouth like an open seam" (11); "She keeps track of the bears that/clamor through each of their houses each/night.  The big bear and the little bear in the/sky" (14); "the bears inside her begin shuffling/their way into the cavity of her chest" (15).  & that's just the bears.

the shared properties of water and stars was running through my mind today when I opened up Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014).  In addition to the rich cross-cultural exchange & intricate neo-mythology detailed by Ed Roberson in his forward to the chapbook, Gomez writes the landscape on the body in poems at once starkly contemporary & brilliantly neo-Romantic: "no allegiances/cutting the river root/with the tip of my folded tongue" (6); "All that was left was a/desert, dense with thirst.  This is what happens when you unravel a/thing already unraveled--the body finds another body to cover/the void" (7); "When we lurch & run//our hands along the warmth/of fire and neck,/we almost forget//how metal scrapes/against the tongue" (12); "So what are you?/And there is silence.//Notice how nothing that matters has a mouth" (34).  

My favorite of all was the chapbook's refraction of Keats's This living hand:

The Hand

Midnight some time ago, I severed my hand & let it loose in the sugar
cane fields outside my home.  The next morning, being so drenched
with want, I remembered how much a good hand is worth & went to
find it.  It was panting at a nearby well, next to a neat row of baskets
filled with cane.  Thinking it would easily reattach, I pressed it against
my wrist--but strangely the hand didn't fit.  It scuttled away & I 
followed, arriving at a city of cardboard in the brush where a highway
of hands flowed, swollen & tired.  My true hand was there, struggling
to pull a time clock into a tattered shoebox.  Under the lid was a 
bleeding pinpoint--glowing hot, too bright for my eyes--accepting
into itself all our loveless works.


Dear (r), can you blame me if I read this as a statement of poetics, a poetics at once brutal and intimate, worthwhile and loveless, historicist and dissevered, embodied and collective?

Happy spring thaw, my friend.  Tell me what you find.

Yours ever,