Thursday, May 25, 2006

This Brave Bare World

A few days ago, I wrote, of poet Elizabeth Domike:

'Sometime there's going to be a long appreciation of her recent chapbook, "Disenchantment," here. I have to stop being staggered by it, though, which may not happen soon.'

I have since realized that in fact it's not going to happen ever, so I better just get on with it. And my appreciation isn't very long, after all. But herewith, what I scribbled at lunch, today --

The fifteen poems of "Disenchantment" are independent, but together they form a sustained elegy, a celebration of a heterogeny of lost or broken things. Of a mass at Notre Dame:

ind All I ever wanted was to feel
indThe filtered light
indThrough those particular windows
indRain on my upturned face

Of a disastrous connection:

indMy little sociopath. Trouble
indFrom the day you were born.
indAt least that's what your dad said
indwhen he set your crib on fire.

indHe was drunk of course and it was
indan accident, the glass and the cigarette
indslipped from his shaking hand
indYou were tough and moved fast,

indEven then.

There is no narrative here. No movement in time, no-here-to-there -- she is losing these things even as she has them. Loving and losing become the same thing, simultaneous, coterminous. These poems inhabit a world in which "was it worth it?" is a question that makes no sense. There is no before and after.

indWhen the boatman comes I wonder
indif he will carry me in his broad arms down
indthe cracked marble steps,
indor if my body will fall away,
indand I will drift lightly on the wind.

What's extraordinary in this poetry is the quality of attention, the painfully intense watching and listening. The opening lines of maybe the best poem, "In Spite of All the Dreaming" might be describing the world the poems lead us into:

inEverything is visible in this brave bare world
inBirds' nests sit high and shine with frost.

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