Thursday, June 20, 2013
Imaginary Planet Poems by Alan Elyshevitz
Poems by Alan Elyshevitz
Cervena Barva Press
Review by Dennis Daly
Some writers puzzle over words and phrases, positioning them, trimming them, easing them into place. Others, like Alan Elyshevitz, take their poetical wands in hand and, through a kind of grammatical gravity, spin their imaginary worlds into solid being from the dust and debris surrounding their commonplace lives.
Like the orbiting planets they mimic, these poems appear from afar to rotate seamlessly, peacefully, and, above all, with a uniform consistency. But upon closer examination the fragments of broken lives and the awful motes of death and change become quite evident.
In his poem entitled Debris Elyshevitz details the calamities inherent in the dissolution of a civilization,
The smoke won’t clear, nor the waters
recede: the sixteenth calamity
this month—a record.
Fences and turnstyles have toppled,
reverting to sour metal
in a reservoir of mud and glass.
Ashes quiver in the updraft;
soggy textiles plug the drains.
The poet, intent upon creation or perhaps restoration, explores this devastated urban landscape and transforms himself into a solicitous healer with practical applications. The poem ends thusly,
… proving himself
indispensable, as his alcoholic
mother always claimed when
he dabbed her elbows, steadied
her finances, and snapped her
memory back from the storm.
Elyshevitz serves up a bit of art theory in his poem This Fragile Planet. He seems to consider both the subjectivity of the reader as well as the essence of the poem itself. He laments his lack of control over his own creation. As artists create they dissipate into their work until they themselves disappear. The poet puts it this way,
it engenders dinosaurs and
with the slightest quake
pull artifacts of shame
from every breach
it cultivates eccentric
In the end
it fears what we all fear
Yes, mortality spares neither poet nor poem. Something to think about.
The poem Hurricane recounts the violence that hits our placid world periodically targeting the weak, the aged, and those who through pride resist. All but the "squat dense things" of life are at risk. Debris is everywhere. Here’s the heart of the poem,
The car horns, the embarrassed medical
team, the fluids bursting from every sewer
In public shelters the dispossessed cough
into their hands like guttering candles
How they yield to the deepening blackout,
jostle, compete, exchange ingratitudes
There is no refastening dislodged pride
Nor the limbs of any man or tree…
Lot’s Wife portrays the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in exile. In fact the poem is dedicated to her. Her cottage world that Elyshevitz has spun together comprises chickens, potatoes, eggs, bad memories of her ex-husband, and her dreams of foie gras. Outside she hears only the universe’s white noise, or perhaps something more. In spite of her entrapment and the isolation of her planet, there is some comfort here. Elyshevitz explains,
Outside, the cackle of falling leaves may be
White noise or the very message you desire.
Meanwhile, for dinner you dream of foie gras
And a smuggled morsel of hope from the city
Of your sentiments. By morning the coop may
Produce a few eggs which some say contain the
Biographies of martyrs, for they taste unbearably
Sublime when accompanied by a pillar of salt.
The poet points to the protective cocoon of suburbia and concomitant dangers in his piece entitled August. The denizens of this comfortable world enjoy music, central air and spicy dips. Outside of this zone lurks vagueness and dangers. Here’s how the poem ends,
… If you squint
you can make out the city.
vague as an un-hyped investment
Hard to imagine people out there
in slow-motion Spanish. If only they
w plutonium, petroleum, paper:
news day. Feel better. No one
know has been raped or tripped a land mine.
And the metal detectors are working
In Let Us Not Speak Of Legacy Now the poet’s persona spoon feeds his dying father. The claustrophobic scene grows more and more uncomfortable as the poet describes the punctured veins, the thickened eyes, and the strangled muscles. The description is spot on and captures the reader within its sterilized dizzy confines. The semi-private hospital room becomes a spinning planet and only the human connection between father and son allows focus. Here are some neat and also telling lines,
Encrusted in doctors’ orders,
you wear the stigmata of punctured veins,
your muscles strangled by atrophy
in a gown without pockets.
All that remains of your fussy desires
is the dusty flavor of your gums
Last but not least, take a look at the spectacular picture on the front and back covers of this book, courtesy of NASA and Caltech: Out of the Dust, A Planet is Born.
Wondrous cover. Otherworldly book.