Friday, May 08, 2009

Arielle Greenberg’s Given

Afterwards, There Will Be a Hallway

The sky is violet like no other hypnosis.

Out the night window, the moon is a slip of coin over the skyscraperscape,
gold and red grids of night windows.

We (the clown, the doll, the murderer and I) are in love.
With the moon.

She ascends: the sky purples, clouds, she rises, now grinning,
becoming a burning door. We love her still.

So that when she begins the medusa eclipse,
we do not look away. We are sweetened.
We are sweetened out of sight.

The apocalypse afterwards is muddy and bound to our apartment.
Someone, one of us, takes advantage and is after. The rest of us collapse
in corners. Am I waiting for the soft thump or for administering it?
In the dark, our bodies are rag. We belong to the group. There is a limp,
and a dizzy.

Afterwards, there will be a hallway. I am anxious at both ends.

Recently, I got a copy of American poet Arielle Greenberg’s first trade poetry collection, Given (Seattle WA: Verse Press, 2002). Hers is a name I’d only heard before, aware of her predominantly through some anthologies and journals, as well as the book she co-edited with her friend Rachel Zucker, Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts & Affections (Iowa City IA; University of Iowa Press, 2008). Given is quite a lovely little collection, and best in how she wraps each of her poems up at the ends, the final phrases often a twisting off, and making what could have been otherwise ordinary into something more. Where else has Greenberg gone since this? Did she ever have that anticipated second, third?


backwoods of New England, a new Dixie
fortnight ice, zero visibility,
we are the old South, slick invisible
passengers, a taste for miles, or four,
more gas, more patriarchs, everyone zoomed,
an atom out of the City where God
himself was born, chains on the tires, snow
in the treads, there’s no roadmap or any
advice, Q: my savior, my mechanic, who
are you to tell me my fortune?, A: a white storm,

I like very much the pinball effect of the small group of small poems in the second section, “(caveshow),” such as “Tennessee,” above, with lines bouncing off coloured lights and bumpers. The book as a whole, with opening poem “Afterwards, There Will Be a Hallway” and three sections—Waterfall, (caveshow) and gaslight—almost as a poem with the ending already in mind, working into the dark and into, towards, the smallest glimmer of light. And in that light comes knowledge, comes that essential wisdom of a poem done right, done with illumination and inspired thought.

Nostalgia, Cheryl, is the Best Heroin

The house knows this and the kitchen knows this.

The shingles tastes of lovers, and the little bedroom is
the girl whose lover has bruised her into what he thinks he
knows he wants.

He thinks. He knows. He wants. A dark little house.
The afghan of tenderness.

In front of the bruise, the townspeople have gathered
for the nod-out into plush plush love, so easy and out.
The cabinet wants more. This community of beating.
This neighborhood of oblivion. The cabinet has less
and wants more.

This is a terrible story, Cheryl. It is an instructional
essay for a sweet beating. It is an open letter to linen closets

Where does the girl keep her lust for the past hidden,
in case the punishers come?

The house pushes for its needs. He needs.

The dishtowels, Cheryl, they are all so limp, so
exhausted from the avoidance of sex. The oven is
white with love. The couch is falling in under the
weight of personal memory: too tight, too wired.

An electric horse, this little house addiction.

The mouth of the garage is dry and has no bicycles.

The lover is beat and the lover is over.

Bend over, tender dream. And ready for the smack.
The window-frames are abused of their hunger. And
he forgets. And the house keeps on.

What I like about the poems of Arielle Greenberg is her clarity, the clearness of her lines even through just how much she holds, and holds back. She doesn’t say, she merely suggests, infers, but is so possibly and completely inside, with all of those things that her poems don’t need to tell us, don’t ever once need to speak to the reader out loud.

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