Sunday, August 21, 2022

Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour

From the title, you can tell this might be a dark, hilarious book. And it is. It's really dark, so dark it sometimes swallows up the hilarity, and all the horror of world politics shines through. A paradox, that shining. Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour, by Conor Bracken, is another of the wonderful Bull City Press books, this one from 2017, but, since it's about the polarizing figure of Henry Kissinger, seems to fit the general polarization of now. 

The cover art, Overflow, by Jenny Blazing (2017, acrylic, collage), looks like a city turning into a waterfall--so it brings to mind The Niagara River, by Kay Ryan, and its cover--but it might be a dam, its mechanisms overcome...which, yes, also describes the book--how loving the machinations of a world maker/breaker transforms things or sort of obscures and reveals what's really going on...

I was delighted to find the poems "jogging through August," like me, on p. 13, in "Henry Has Me Tell Him About My First Time," which is a pretty icky and not very delightful account of unwanted attentions, in a swamp. As you can imagine.

Another coincidence was the color blue again, in the amazing "Henry Pats His Heart for Emphasis," in the line, "I hold his x-rays to the moon's blue light." The poem keeps trying to figure out if Henry has a heart:

     If it mutters to itself at night upset
     by coups planned late, worrying that it left
     the serial numbers on the submachine guns.

You get the idea! And the dark hilarity! And the speaker is quite up front about his/her/their (?) complicity, as in "How American":

     Henry and I, we're as American
     as an overdose of opiates,

     our bodies red and white and blue
     and bloated. American as rural poverty
     and tort law, fingers lopped off by gears
     that move fast as the cruise missile in his living room

     we take turns straddling like a mustang,
     whispering hoarsely "ashes to ashes,

     lust to lust."

Dark, right? And I love the pun in "hoarsely." And it's amazing how the poems really are love poems, as in the last stanza of the poem "Henry Talks About the Hyenas," an unlikely title for such a lovely turn at the end, when, Henry having chosen the descriptor "velvety" for the night, this happens:

     The night a curtain
     we can roughen with one hand
     and smooth with the other.

Which also describes the manipulation of world politics, eh?

More (scary) blue in "Call Me Condor": "before dragging me from the air's blue throat." More marvelous (scary) imagery: "the sun still zipping the river / up in a yellow body bag." The continued mix of love and horror--in "How Mercy Works" (by blame and cruelty)--and in the wordplay of the title, "The Hands With Which Henry Puts The Casual Back in Casualty." But you know it's going to be this way from the very first poem, with its funny title, "The Tao of Henry," and that short poem's last two lines:

     Keep your boot on the throat of the season.
     With your good eye dare the horizon to shrug.

1 comment:

Greg Koos said...

“There is something about the way you put your boot in my face that I object to.”
Kenneth Patchen