Thursday, August 25, 2022

Break the Glass

I'm tired, physically and mentally--a lot on my mind these days--and I feared I was tired of poetry, but, no. Early this morning, I picked up Break the Glass, by Jean Valentine (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), and could not put it down. The poems felt both fragmentary and liquidy, like pieces floating or somehow flowing...with little punctuation to stop the flow. That body of water with bodies in it, which looks like people standing, is an installation in Germany by Antony Gormley, called Another Place (1997, cast iron/100 elements), photographed by Helmut Kunde. The poems dropped me in another time and place, some celebrating Lucy, that early hominid, and who knew I'd find the coincidence of the word Australopithecus in three books this August, two books of poetry and one about teeth.

The watery feel is there in "The Japanese garden":

     It might be under water,
     the birds be fish, colored in.     And you,

     maksed reader:          the glance
     of your underwater lamp,

     your blackwater embrace---
     not bought or sold.

I also found the coincidence of elephants in "Ghost Elephants" and a novel I read for narrative escape, The Elephant's Journey, by Jose Saramago. "In the elephant field / tall green ghost elephants / with your cargo of summer leaves"

True, Valentine's elephants appear to be plants. 

The coincidence of blue in the remarkable "Then Abraham," combining the Abraham/Isaac story with a Vermeer painting:

     Still, all the history of the world
     happens at once: In the rain, a young man

     holds out a blue cloth
     to caress her head...

And the coincidence of reading the phrase "in a rainstorm" in a rainstorm this morning, one we needed, though it weighed down the branch of Rose of Sharon with its last lavender blooms.

Lucy is also known as "'Dinkenesh,' an Amharic language term meaning 'You are beautiful.'" And arouses our empathy. "No one is so tender in her scream." And connection:

               when my scraped-out child died Lucy
     you hold her, all the time.

And when I read, "The nine wild turkeys come up calmly to the porch / to see you, Lucy," I recalled our neighborhood flock of wild turkeys, their calm visits to us all, driveway by driveway, yard by yard.

I loved "Outsider Art" for itself, for the artist it celebrates, Martin Ramirez, and for its astonishing end to writer's block:

    When writing came back to me
     I prayed with lipstick
     on the windshield
     as I drove.

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