Friday, June 27, 2008

The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine, by Mark Yakich


Anybody can be Noah.
Nobody can be his wife.

Send out the maven, not
The dove. Jump ship and accept

Death. No treasure without
A map. No lap without underlying

Pleasure. Let the mind worry
About the logic. But don’t

Forget to drag the body,
As witness, through the sand.

It's been a long time since I've seen poems as interesting, as different and as unusual as those of New Orleans writer Mark Yakich's The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (Penguin, 2008), a follow-up to his acclaimed debut collection, Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (2003). Rarely have I seen such well-crafted poems done in such strange and subversive ways, writing about Elvis, 9-11, tourists and the Biblical flood. Who else has attempted a poem about the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. and anal sex, let alone done it so brilliantly well? Even the first couplet alone is enough to smash through concrete. Just where the hell did this kid come from?


for JFK Jr.

You can’t stop the clouds
By crashing an airplane.

And without money to protect
Morale, an elegy does nothing

More than inspire middle-
Finger children. Opium, ecstasy,

Star-fuckers. You have to love
Like an ass before your wife

Will fuck you in it. How true
Is true love when you’re both

In the dark? Know, the compass
Is more humble than the wing,

Or in your mind the image
Of Father, no-handed,

Doing Mother from behind.

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