Review of “we’ll beachcomb for their broken bones”

Many years ago I listened to a mystical twilight album by Jane Siberry during a particularly late college (nearly) all-nighter at a the home of a college buddy. Siberry’s lyrics were fresh and unmanaged, like clean crisp unfolded laundry. Between the fabric of those words were voids, spaces, and the yearning texture of longing in the poet’s voice. I sat in the wee hours in my friend’s home listening to Siberry’s peculiar songs and absorbing a landscape solitude that lived by its own pressing and elusive logic. I was returning to a strange new home. This collection has some of those same qualities.

Language, much like dance, has a way of being reinvented, when an artist is trying to get at something that doesn’t convey under the familiar syntax. It’s an ongoing liberation and it’s hard won. elena botts is finding that rough, unsettled music in her works with all of the unsteadiness and brokenness of 21st century promises that litter our sidewalks, schoolyards and oceans. We live in unsettled times and some poets bring a hand-held camera by choice, words and ideas jerking in and out of focus, interrupting each other while somehow the music of the extended shot holds.

Observe:

“…how the backyards of childhood, yesterdays like

little dogs that ran away

from home, close into the butterfly

glances and simple reenactments

of your freckled sideways glances

swinging and swinging under the canopy of spring, brewing nostalgia until the trees prematurely bend,

as if the blood in our arteries

were an afterthought in the so, nearly tragic underlying stillness…”

Let your ears absorb some of the logic here. Listen to the jagged stops and starts and allow these works to neither comfort nor perplex you. They are a dialect with built-in contradictions, blind spots and double backs. We need this: to be sent out into the danger of not knowing while we return to the sensing. Every new generation must get us there with a new and troubling orchestration. Read these pieces three times. Once with the “rational” on pause. Again for the music. And the third time because good things come in threes … except when we expect them to.

Don’t let these works meet your expectations, they are better than that and naturally resistant.

—Lucas Smiraldo, past poet laureate of the city of Tacoma and author of the poetry collection, The Thing That Gathers

 

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we’ll beachcomb for their broken bones

a little luminescence

The Ruler of the Universe

I keep thinking about the ruler of the universe,  you know the one who controls the aquatic symphonies, the tides. He has a cat, a gingery thing that will leave his side and often but somehow remains like a piece of his face only you wouldn’t think of his face you’ll never remember his face quite even after you’ve met him and maybe it’s this way for a lot of people but for some reason. His face makes you remember a lot of things but these are as unspeakable as the planet in its slow revolutions of the sun and nothing ready to the mind, you cannot speak.

He lives in a small house. Here there is a table and a cat, a gingery thing that eludes him somehow more or less than all the ether that he cannot convince himself is real. He doesn’t believe in anything, he says. Most especially not himself and that is why I recall him so fondly, perhaps he is a generation of my own eroding. Maybe it is fond to know little or nothing or perhaps it is endearing to us who know mostly of failings and less of things that stick and stick and stick like stars or even the constellations of skin, so fixed is my vision on impermanence, so broken my bones by merely the thought of it and breath just another thing to carry me out of this world. Had I known myself enough here to know this place.

He lives by the sea, but we all do in our minds, anyway, ourselves forever wading or cresting. It depends on whether we are in it or of it, whether we could know it, or even the moon. He has a face like the moon and he breathes a cosmic wind that floats down and flutters me, my bones, my terrible unshakeable heart that I do anything and everything to annihilate. As oblivion was my first true love.

When you embrace the ruler of the universe, he only shivers and admits that he doesn’t know if he exists, let alone if there is a universe. The others often aim at convincing him, that yes, there is great care in the cosmos, even rabid desire and the minds of animals, even the salivating human animal, and that the spinning suns burning out implode for something after all, even the nethers of us. But he is. The cat has lost itself in the wave but pads out again, slim flank and a trim fish in mouth or maybe an imaginary fish, a scintillating thing that the felid devours madly, streaking the bones and ravening. They comfort the body of the ruler, hold him tight though he is unmoved, moves little. His body doesn’t speak fathoms and his eyes are forgettable to each of us. We hold him like nobody until we are released. He smiles at us and says he will soon return to his little shack on the rim of the great ocean on this planet that is smaller than most but on which he is lonesome, that is if one can be alone, that is if he is what he is and there is a shack crumbling and an ocean also and a rim of all things, though he says, and skuffles a foot into a dune, I cannot suppose that is so. I do not know.