To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, February 25, 2011

Amish Trivedi: Seven Poems from “Sound/Chest” with a Note on the Process

At the library I worked in, I came across a discarded card catalog. Because of computers and databases, etc., card catalogs are a thing of the past. This one drew my attention due to the labels on the front of each drawer, including “Ritual/Abstinence,” “Sound/Chest.” The drawers, however, were empty. I was confused but intrigued by the jarring nature of each word in combination with another word. There seemed to be no relationship between the two words on either side of the slash, so later on, I wrote down all fifty drawers worth of titles and began writing poems that I felt reflected each label’s juxtaposition. I felt the poems ought to try and bridge the two words on the label, creating a relationship through language, much in the way I believe we all create meanings with words.

With some research, I was able to find out that this large wooden cabinet had been used to house a custom index for a collection somewhere at the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, all the labels were removed before I could find out anything for certain and now the cabinet is empty, waiting to be given away or destroyed.

The card catalog intrigues me by its ability to be fascinating and useless at the same time. Language, too, is ultimately ephemeral in that it is always changing and never static. Language must be treated with a movement towards levity, as it is always light with us. Aesthetically, I strive for levity in my poems, not only through subject matter, but also through word choice and the visual effect of the text. As I am attempting to represent the card catalog through my poetics, I believe the card catalog also represents my views of poetry. I feel that poems ought to use fewer words to create jarring oppositions and phrases, which is probably why I was drawn to the card catalog. I believe this is how one explores language as a construct and liquidity rather than as a rigid structure. The function of poetry is to delve into and explode language. In this sense, the card catalog, which is now an ephemeral piece, has room for poetry to move within it, seeping through the disjunctive language present in the extinct labels. Where the relationship is remote, or maybe even non-existent, poetry, as a function of language, is able to propose meaning via its agile nature.

[The poems follow]:

Dose/Farewell ..........................1738

A new, lovely way
to say “mistake.” I should
have imagined these
bindings before. The moment
after must have been
amazing, but there’s no
way to draw it out
or pretend it sprung up. This
last note is the orbit
of decay: please press
these stains to my face.
Anything included
in the sunset is mantra
and I felt out of it some
time back. These were
the same eyes that saw
what wasn’t there, and
now all I want is the
vision- the way things
should have gone.

Combine/Liquid .........................1735

After, the
bruises became
her thighs: the next
blooms. Rotten
symbols of
sustainability. In photos
where she’s
Joan of Arc,
I prefer the ones
with her glasses
taped and in
a purple dress. This
music plays
faster as she says
no and smiles.

Sound/Syllable .........................1708

at the table
and red: glasses
that don't
need tape. I see her
listening to jazz
and should have
said no. Plastic
forms the new
fever. I was from
Saturday and she was
Sunday breakfast. Tiles
are stuck and
germinating: your hoodie,
a nervous smile.

Attempts/Unrealized .........................1718

We’re good at
pretending to know
what we’re doing
during the lean hours. He
carried tools and
fixed glasses, waiting
for a nerve to work
up. Even then, she
pretended to know
what was happening
and he waited for nothing.
I saw him later
at the door as her
cab pulled away and
never said anything and
never talked about it
after that, but I could tell. These
were the moments where we
meditated in the yard
and stood with our legs apart
and our hands up, pretending
to hold a vase or a child
as long as we

Abandonment/Obscurant .........................1698

This was the day
for a smoke screen that
I had seen before. He
has returned
and there’s no rebellion
to be found. I built this war
to reflect what I saw
in space: this war and
this well-rested night.
I saw all the lights flicker
multiple times
before questioning
the power generation. What-
ever and whatever, this
is the used up end and the
beginning that’s waning.

Foil/Dose .........................1732

This is our last time around
with no sign
that we've been here
before. Next time,
I plan on leaving early
before they fuck us up
again. Asked about where
he was going, he always said
he was coming back
and smiled. This made them
cringe and pretend
they understood. He noted
the pained look
on their faces and wrote down
the time. There was an angelic baby
on her shoulder
and he was introduced as
the father. His face was the same
as theirs.

Factory/Shadow .........................1725

He kept himself
grounded as he worked
on the line because he knew
the dangers of power. One jolt
might not be so bad, he
would joke, but he knew
he’d be dead. And when he
was driving home and a woman
hit him from behind going
twice the speed limit, blinded
by the afternoon sun,
he made it home and cried
in my arms, amazed and sad
he was still alive. His seat fell
backwards and he was lying
down when they pulled him
out. She claimed his car
was just a dark blur at impact.


Hannah Stephenson said...

This is the kind of thing that makes me shriek with joy. The discovery.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Grand discoveries in poetics; had not heard of Amish before. I reposted his seven poems over on my site in spirit of fellowship, and he visited, thanking me for the repost; showing real class. I found an image of the card files at the Yale library, and he mentioned they looked very much like the ones he referred to.

Humphrey said...

just wonderful

Humphrey said...