Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NEW! Poem by Rob Cook

Rob Cook


The water is a lie. 
The water will be blamed for its own disappearance.
The water flows to us from the basements of the earth.
The water goes brown in its invisible cities. 
The water moves with expeditions of punctured tarpaulin.
The water breeds only uncountable and useless water.
The water will be punished for revealing its unforgivable information.
The water will be poisoned and devoured by human lobsters.
The water will return because there are no other gods. 
The water will be given only the protection of the pelican word for “water”
while it weakens with the stillness of all plankton.
The water’s father will be fed the lost laughter of a hermit crab. 
Treat the water as an animal flowing with cellophane mist.
Invest in the toxic potentials of water. 
Buy and sell water! 
Predict the prices of water, the demands of the crowds of water.
If water does not advance, then water will be killed.
None of the water is new.
Water is an old and hackneyed master.
Water is less valuable than television movies of ice.
Water is less valuable than a dress pregnant with octopus.
Water is less valuable than men fighting in cell phone pictures.
Water that can be thought of as a vertebrate now. 
Water that can be heard when its bones of a thousand windows point toward the sky.
There are no longer spaces between people and the red robot sounds of water.
There are no longer sanctuaries of benevolent water in the petroleum eternity.
There are no longer songs whose water has never been touched.
There are search towers instead of oxygen on the microscope slides 
of slowed river water.
The water cannot be trusted: it is no longer a proven place of healing.
The water cannot be trusted even when our spies have infiltrated 
the fish cameras of algae hotels.  
The water can’t be tasted: it can be guessed at, but never known.  
The water’s people will have no water to drink, no water to cut open for the deeper water.
They will have to sip the false glacier melt from their own parched bodies.
They will forget the lakes and reservoirs and underground oceans of fog.
The water can be discussed, but only in leviathan apocrypha. 
The water can be felt as pain because the insides of the water are turning human now.
The water is despised, the water is overcrowded, the water is herded 
and forced into plastic bottles with no mother, no father, 
not a word or a prayer or a breath from the next labeled crack of light.
The water can be listened to because its molecules are thickening from a horrible thirst. 
The water is not dying, the iron people will tell you
while the water cowers in the bottomless aquifers of antifreeze, 
unable to move the heavier water, unable to reach the iron surface
where the ships are not afraid and the sonar is an advancing predator
that survives now in fleets of shark memory.
No one listens to their weeping that can be drilled and tested and taken away. 
No one feels the stronger water nuzzling 
the weaker water during the body’s mutilation dramas.
How will anyone survive the stillness of water, 
how will anybody endure the secrets among the water’s many selves. 
Each person betrays, through a blunted thirst, his or her graveyards of rain.
Each person hears and ignores—as difficult, wasteful, and unproven—
the cries of the dark and falling water.

Friday, June 19, 2015

NEW! Review of Matthea Harvey

If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? by Matthea Harvey. Graywolf Press, $25.

Reviewed by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Matthea Harvey’s If The Tabloids Are True What Are You?  resembles a museum, every section a glossy curio cabinet. Harvey weaves a tight sharp world where girls are made of glass and mermaids can grow legs and become costume designers. Each of the book’s sections is accompanied by strange multimedia art (personettes of mermaids with household appliances for tails, embroidered cloth, pictures of everyday objects encased in glass, and so on). Harvey is like a surrealist sculptor who makes miniature worlds out of pinecones, and the result is stunningly beautiful, disturbing, genre-migrating writing. 

The women-girls in this book take male fantasies and exaggerate them, stretching them out until they break. They are aquatic, insubstantial or too substantial, held back by either a physical defect or dysfunction, such as the mermaid who can’t swim because she is half tuna, or the mermaid in “Telletrefono” who is slowly killed by the world she wasn’t meant to inhabit.

The book opens with a group of prose poems about malfunctional, objectified, male fantasy-warping mermaids. The poems are accompanied by mermaid silhouettes, in which the tails are household tools.  One mermaid is too straightforward. Another is inside out, her organs are her skin. The Impatient Mermaid is too fast and wired, longing for death. The Tired Mermaid is perpetually exhausted.  Morbid Mermaid is enraptured by death, but dissatisfied with the foam that mermaids turn into when they die.  Backyard Mermaid is trapped in a suburban neighborhood. The Objectified Mermaid  is doing a pin-up photo shoot and working in a dive bar. Deadbeat Mermaid is an aquatic hick.  Homemade Mermaid is botched: 

The Homemade Mermaid is top half pimply teenager, bottom half tuna. This does not make for a comely silhouette, and the fact that her bits are stitched together with black fishing wire only makes the combo more gruesome. The Homemade Mermaid floods Mermag’s  “Ask Serena” column with postcards that read, “O why not half salmon or half koi?” signed Frankenmaid. Sure, she’s got the syndrome—loves her weird-eyed maker who began his experiments with Barbies and goldfish in a basement years ago—

The book’s fourth section, “On Intimacy,” houses a collection of poems (“My Zebra Son,” “My Wolf Sister,” “My Owl Other”) about woman-child-animal hybrids. Like the mermaid poems in the book’s previous sections, these poems characterize the stigmas surrounding womanhood and family. 

Another part of the book, “The Glass Factory,” is a long poem broken into sections and framed by images of household items filled with glass. The girls in the factory have never been outside. First they make a girl from glass, then they make new worlds: 

The thermometer hits one thousand
degrees and suddenly she’s standing there—
hot, glowing, almost still liquid. Like them, 
but unlike too. They don’t question that
she is alive, walking, gesturing. But no one 
imagined that she, with her new glass eyes
would be able to see the glass lock 
and the glass key. In an instant, she opens 
the door and they stream outside into
the solid world. This isn’t at all what 
they imagined. The sky is like lead
above their heads. The once-silent birds
flood their ears with clashing arias. 

Harvey follows “The Glass Factory” with a group of animalistic dystopian poems with retro images that juxtapose the harsh realities of Harvey’s writing with kitschy multimedia images of miniature household items and small, seemingly random objects. 

Harvey uses the mermaid as a token of womanhood again in the last section of the book, “Telletrefono”: 

Preset Antonio Meucci Monologue Mode: 

It looks plastic and unbeautiful, no? But oh if you filleted this telettrofono, the wonders you would see. Two tubes lined with fish scales and mercury, sparks of electricity tripping up tiny gold stairs, a spirit level stitched into a swimbladder, a microphone made of minimolluscs, and, floating in a small stoppered vial, one petticoat snippet, one mermaid tear, and a cell from the gill of an electric eel. You are holding in your hand “the telephone which I invented and which I first made known and which, as you know, was stolen from me.” 


Preset Mermaid Monologue Mode (Esterre Meucci) 

Look up. The clouds are a pod of belugas,
the sun, a bloom of jellyfish fluorescing 
a few fathoms up, or no, make it nighttime—
the light underwater was never this bright. 
That was once my life. I moved through it
smoothly, too smoothly—sometimes just to feel 
something, I’d take—between my thumb
and forefinger—one of the many hooks 
that were hunting underwater and give it a tug. 
Hello, I mouthed underwater, hello?
In “Telletrefono,” a mermaid who dares to leave the ocean because she is craving sound faces the consequences as her legs and body break from the noise, a metaphor akin to the shaming and punishment inflicted on women in fairy tales and in the real world for their expressions of sexuality. The mermaid is punished for coming ashore, and, metaphorically, for becoming immoral because of it. Her inventor husband creates bright, loud worlds for her as their life becomes increasingly ruinous. Throughout If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? Harvey takes stereotypes and destroys them, leaving a trail of shards in her wake. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

NEW! Two poems by Rob Cook

Rob Cook

Two poems


When the tenement loses 
its place in the light, 
thirty pigeons bleed 
from the gray brick sky
where crowded bedrooms dwell.

Fat with plague 
and sidewalk plumage
the pigeons descend as a single shroud
and peck at the cement 
like starving asphodels. 

And the people, always talking,
always feeding their obedient phones
and ignoring their outdated dogs,
scatter like the scattered 
seedlings of a colossus that fell. 


Dear trilobite and all your advancing crayon
mammals, it is never night.
The sunlight is just broken
or hunted down or self-conscious
from the way its turtles twitch like sea lungs.

The dinosaurs, made from shelves
of shale, have just led the world
to a different room of oranges and wind
and everything the trees and hills can see,
everything the mountains shy with stone can see.

And even though the rabbit-shaped kings cannot play
and the tomatoes cannot play, nor the leaves,
and the faces seem scary in the sky today,
it is not raining—

it’s just your shirt stripes
mining the cephalon forests of a mirror
when it’s closest to the happiness 
stolen from your toothpaste shades of sky,
that bedtime era.

And there the frowns 
from a more slight and missing day
become bright listening for your trails 
through fossil ranges of salamander and cynodont
and a pre-school apricot nephew. 

With a clown’s twelve giggling fingers,
you hunt the sugared cliffs of a cake
for a brachiopod’s grandmother
and a Norian granddad, both still 
next to the sounds a rock made
back in the mythological light.

And still tall with miles and stories
and hugs of dandelion worlds,
they bring five windswept candles,
five hives of ice cream,
five soda bottle amphibians
and hold your newly sprouted hand, 
its house and the little way it laughs

without windows on a Silurian, birthday afternoon.