Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Judith Harris: Soma Poetry


There comes the occasional moment in the week when you walk past a room with the door ajar, and note that it's mostly dark save for light straying in from a window , casting the furniture and the folds of whatever fabrics in plain sight in a deep , earthen hue; there is peace, there is a richness and depth to the colors you see by chance, there is a idea that what you're seeing on the sly are things of themselves, in arrangements free of the harnessing concepts of what utility they might have.

We see them , for a moment, in pure form, from a dimension of being only absurd math dares make an attempt to address in dimensional terms. But we get busy with our things we-must-do before leaving the house again, our perception , which has strayed outside the paradigm, finds its purposeful step again, and the room is merely a place where the lights are off. The half shadows no longer suggest magic or tap an instinct at the base of the skull where the brain contains its secret places and spiritual hankers for that which cannot be defined and divided up as commodity. We see these things in passing for years, and some of us spend careers trying to get the moment right, in words, words that fail them.

"Memory" by Judith Harris goes for the moments that seemed so right so long ago and gives us a Hallmark momento as a result. This is not an awful bit of remembering, if one were actually listening to a friend over coffee or a meal , listening to them pull bits of a detail in a story they were telling you, placing the detail in the right place in the narrative , and then remembering even more things as the picture they speak to us becomes an even larger verbal canvas.

It would be something to witness a racounteur stop, rewind their tale, embed and embroider the new information, and then proceed with the tale. In the unhurried moments, those days when there are no deadlines, no timetables, agendas, chores looming, and when the company one has that day is someone who you don't mind listening too at length, the telling, the style and personality of the presentation, can be enthralling. It's one of those times when you realize that life is worth the effort it takes to get through the day.

Harris' "Memory", isn't one of those rare and special get -togethers when the sharing makes for more profound bounding; it's a quaintly antiseptic, nutrition free bit of sweetness that is all set for the last line.

Those years, after dogwoods
and purple phlox
the color of dyed Easter eggs,
the screen door rattling like a nerve …

On the porch, a cardboard box
for the stray cats
who stayed just long enough
to swell and litter.

So simple,
my mother, home
from the stenographer's pool,
starlings dangling like keys
over the rooftops,

the late hour pulling us in
like a magnet,
the moon baying,
the solitaire train of cards.


We are to linger over the commonplaces set before us and recognize them, remember them in situations of our own, and surrender to the mood of another tingling epiphany, a swooshing rush of nothingness sweeping over us. The details seem less like things one would notice in pursuit of the right phrases to describe to someone else an experience or an emotion that's difficult to contain in a sentence or two, than they seem to be from a list one dresses up their template with. "The moon goes here, solitaire goes there, but lemme put the Easter eggs and stray cats over here". The details seem more from a prop department than from felt experience, and one really shake the feeling their being set up through a series of stiff, over burnished cliches for a finale that is , in some measure, supposed to take our breath away, stun us into silence, have us utter "oh wow" while fighting an urge to weep.

Nothing could budge us
from our own little island,
our own little cushions,
where we stayed,
eating tuna sandwiches,

just her and me,
floating on TV laughter,
her hand clasped over mine
like a first date's.


This is where I feel like someone had dropped a bowling ball on my head and there were cartoon tweety birds and visions of Saturn and star, jagged stars circling my harried skull, meaning that has a hard time thinking they hadn't been sucker punched for sticking with this work , hoping for a subversive element or an idea to emerge and run a parallel, more skewed set of proposals to Harris' medicine -breathed sweetness. We confront a poem that reaffirms its own inanity and which wades in the receding hallows of an unexamined life; Judith Harris prefers the world which never existed, the sort of universe where happiness and joy are givens without reservation, unproblematized by disaster, tragedy, a late credit card payment, even the inconvenience of a cold caller. Hers is a world of perfect forms to match every unruly thought or unannounced glitch in the daily plan, with props , cliches, tropes , schemes, and two dimensional set of equations that are designed to keep a reader sentimental, submissive, weepy and resigned to the sort of
pickpocket morality that will keep one quiet, receptive to every easy answer to come their way; poetry is the prison house of language fans of this kind of sonambulent tripe are locked in. Pity the fan who might actually be surprised by circumstances no items in Judith Harris' playbook can explain.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something clear and smart.Lets have a discussion.