I met a man who was a woman who was a man who was a woman who was a man who met a woman who met her genes who tic’d the toe who was a man who x’d the x and xx’d the y I met a friend who preferred to pi than to 3 or 3.2 the infinite slide through the river of identitude a boat he did not want to sink who met a god who was a tiny space who was a shot who was a god who was a son who was a girl who was a tree I met a god who was a sign who was a mold who fermented a new species on the pier beneath the ropes of coral
I met a man who was a fume who was a man who was a ramp who was a peril who was a woman who carried the x and x’d the y the yy who xx’d the simple torch
I rest (the man who) a woman who tells the cold who preferred a wind who was a silo a chime who met a corner a fuel an aurora a hero a final sweep (“I MET A MAN”)
Because I am behind on everything, I am only now getting into American trans and genderqueer poet and sound artist Samuel Ace’s fourth full-length poetry title, Our Weather Our Sea (Black Radish Books, 2019). The poems in Our Weather Our Sea simultaneously exist as sequence, accumulation of lyric fragments and as a lengthy, single sentence. The book is sectioned into four—the opening prose poem, “An Ocean-Like Hush,” the accumulated suite-section of self-contained prose poem fragments, “I MET A MAN,” the call-and-response of lyric journal sketches, “HIS LETTERS WERE NOT LOSS,” and the seven extended prose poems that make up the final section, “THESE NIGHTS.” At the core of the collection is an engagement with body and gender and language, and the interplay between body and gender and language.
I came to deliciously corrupt
But so tempting so luscious so impossibly thick that so unattached so hung so strangled but so taunted so vast so very sad that so pictured so styled so invited but so ancient so familiar so clean that so breathless so desperate so spoken for but so seductive so labile diseased and dangerous that so marred so pocked so long but so marred so pocked so long that so seductive so labile diseased and dangerous but so breathless so desperate so spoken for that so ancient so familiar so clean but so pictured so styled so invited that so taunted so vast so very sad but so unattached so hung so strangled that so tempting so luscious so impossibly thick (“I MET A MAN”)
It’s easy to understand Samuel Ace’s engagement as a sound artist, given the importance of sound and cadence through the lyric on display here, one that sweeps and staggers and twists in wonderful ways. Perhaps these are poems meant to be heard aloud, finally. As well, beneath and through the lyric repetition and shifts of language come a sequence of engagements of daily life, from love and sex to friends, and even touching on daily activities and errands. As he writes as part of “January 9th 5:01:55 AM,” in the third section: “Well enough the interpush the putty / ass the hot tub itch the bearded / farts poop on the rug the concrete / crack I’ve been singing for the lost / my spirit dog my tao of days [.]” He writes on simple things, on complexities, and writes with sudden twists and breaks and turns. In a 2018 interview over at Touch the Donkey, Ace spoke specifically of three poems that appeared in the journal, that now also sit in the third section of this recent collection:
A: In “So here is a crib” and “Where are you hiding,” as in much of my recent work, I am interested in how language intersects with specific moments of daily life. The pieces are fugue-like, using repetition and other sonic/musical elements to create layers of meaning as the poems unfold. I believe that “The cells” does the same, in the context of the hidden and daily violence of incarceration, forced isolation and solitary confinement.
Ace writes of being able to openly and fluidly exist with certainty and principle, writing out possibility, and the possibility of change, and becoming. Ace writes of a softness and stillness as well as a violence, both figurative and literal, as he writes in the poem “Standing at a Desk of Cranberries,” from the final section in the collection:
I’m just like you some dying some grief some scotch my final please unhooked from fire and earrings knees in the grass singing into the sorted dirt my beach a tree pleading with the summer surf walking or chased a finned orange fish that sucks at my sleep a morning trail in lavender musk preacher mounds a human fever a corner room settled in blue plaid a pot of red bowls a curtain of frames a pitted eye a hill a chimney a pear