Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Old Witch Winks

The Old Witch Winks Don Moyer (Beatitude Press, Berkeley California) No Price.

We’ve got a book of poems here that walks us through the wardrobe or the looking glass to a new world—odd and familiar. I can imagine reading only one of these poems and getting a sense of the dense atmosphere, but reading them collected in Don Moyer’s The Old Witch Winks is a thorough exploration of a crowded shop full of strange, evocative antiques.

Moyer’s verse refers frequently to the hairy angry early books of the Bible—the Lilith or Enoch times—he brings the concepts to a seedy present day America with its morally troubling politics and culture. The religious references are paired with icons of popular piety, Doris Day and little girls, family restaurants and the Presidency, perverting all of them with the language of foulness and death.

from Weedy Words & Curling Page: Prologue for a New Bible

Enoch walked with God for 365 years,
then rose to Heaven and saw the angels
plunge to earth and mate:
trim, winged bastards
buckin’ Doris Days:
trippy cowgirls,
big blue
rippling eyes,
pink panties a-rippin’

The memory of World War Two and the importance of resisting Nazis provides another recurrent contrast, often subverted by profanity: farting, fucking. Nothing can be holy in our fallen bodies or our descending empire.

“Golem Bush” is a character in these poems, when he’s mentioned and when he’s not—the collection visits and revisits the idea of sacrifice made in good faith only to be squandered. The poem “Abraham considers God’s order to sacrifice his son, Isaac” begins with a moving image of a crushed model plane:

cousin Bobby built it,
balsa, paper, paint
a big fragile beauty
gift into accident.

There’s a lingering flavor of anger over the war in Iraq and the use of soldiers’ and civilian lives for petty ends. Moyer has given us a collection of powerful, timely poems.

--Catherine Nichols/Ibbetson Update/July, 2008/Somerville, Mass.

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