Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Patient Zero

Recently I dreamed I lived in a waterworld, and now this cover!--art by Jeremy Miranda, Searching--for Patient Zero by Tomás Q. Morín (Copper Canyon, 2017). And I kept intersecting with the book as I read along. The title poem, "Patient Zero," which makes you think of AIDS, or Covid, or the movie Contagion, is really about love as "a worried, old heart / disease," quoting Son House lyrics to lay out a theory about humans and animals stricken with "something...divine and endless." Love.

The book includes a translation of Pablo Neruda's poem "Calle a Calle," that begins, "So I am tired of being a man." It did seem in a different voice in a way. A dreamed voice? An underwater voice? 

In "At the Supermarket," the speaker imagines himself into a Rockwell painting with others in line with him at the cashier, leading to the fabulous closing lines: "the girl totals and totals what we owe, / as we inch and inch toward the infinite." [Intersection--I have a supermarket poem, too! "Grocery Store at Night."] In the wonderful "Carità Americana," he retells a Roman story about milk and generosity to include cows and a cowbird [where I intersect again with poems of my own] and pity, which may be a kind of love.

There is a remarkable long poem called "Sing Sing" about a prisoner who keeps drafting a letter to her parole board. In it, I learn that "Sing Sing" must come from "the Sint Sinck / tribe who fished and camped // the shores..." Indeed, looking further, I find that Sint Sinck means "stone upon stone," and are the white stones of the famous prison at Ossining, New York.

I connected again and again with poems in Patient Zero, but I'll leave you with some lines from "Stargazing":

        ...There was a way
     I moved then, prehistoric
     you might call it, that I don't move now,
     not since life taught me patience
     never filled a hungry stomach or slowed
     the sure fist of a bully...

That rang so true, and made me sad, until I went back to the first line, to track the prehistoric, "I used to walk like a sloth," and smiled to think of the sloth in Zooptopia.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

And now, to make it a Random Coinciday, off I go to the supermarket.