Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Marita Dachsel's all things said & done

Flight Attendants

Flight attendants don't age like the rest of us;
they are time travellers, smiling
purposefully at thirty thousand feet,
offering chicken or beef,
mixing the perfect Vodka 7
as they jump, passing through time zones
like earthbound mortals cross city streets.

Is there anything that Silas White can't do? The re-invigorator of Nightwood Editions over the past half decade or so, he's apparently now editing books for former-northern-BC-publisher-moved-south Caitlin Press, including a first trade poetry collection by Vancouver poet Marita Dachsel, her all things said & done (Madiera Park BC: Caitlin Press, 2007). It's been a while since I've heard the name Marita Dachsel, since she won the first annual above/ground press chapbook manuscript contest in 1996, resulting in the publication of her learning to breathe (Ottawa ON: above/ground press, 1996) in May that year. Born and raised in Williams Lake, BC, there is much in these poems that could be compared to Elizabeth Bachinsky's second poetry collection (also edited and published by Silas White), Home of Sudden Service (Roberts Creek BC: Nightwood Editions, 2006) [see my review of such here] for its rough depiction of semi-rural/semi-suburban living.

I dream of Steinbeck, knowing he would have been a great lover. He would have never taken me to the dump to get naked in the back of a greasy orange Chevy truck with a bald spare tire for my head to bang against. No, he would have taken me to a secret field full of yellow poppies and blue flowers iced in white. He would have gently lain me down on a flannel blanket instead of pulling me up the tailgate onto the towel you use to wipe the windshield. He would have caressed me, tickled my arm, and kissed my neck before touching my blouse which you require off before you can kiss me. He would have whispered, We have an audience, and laughed at the curious birds, never swearing at the crows during the middle of it. And Steinbeck would never have demanded to do it in the back of his truck while his buddies sat in the front drinking cheap beer.
Much like Bachinsky's, this is a book of threat and escape, and those things that simply have to be endured, in poems that celebrate and explore the lives of small towns. In all things said & done, poems exist about girls who end up marrying boys much like their fathers, and don't always know how to get off a path once they're born to it. These are good, clear poems, but somehow less so simply through the fact that Elizabeth Bachinsky already covered much of the same territory in much of the same way, and more thoroughly (although I have a weakness for anyone brave or foolish enough to write a poem about Kamloops, for any reason…); but will this free up Dachsel's poems to move beyond these held moments and move further?

Weekend in Kamloops

Backing into the driveway, I see
the neighbour across the street
peer out the window, calculating—
he knows your parents are in Japan
visiting friends who once slept
in the bedroom we will share. We are castaways
curled up, taking in the sagebrushed view
from across the Thompson, hills folded,
layers dusted by the Shuswap, where
the mornings rise with a murmuration of starlings.

You find the keys to your father's pickup
and suddenly I become giddy. You open
the door for me and sliding in, I ask
if you want me to sit beside you.
We both laugh knowing
this small-town shorthand.

This is a dress rehearsal, playing house
at your parents'. We use appliances,
build a fire, play board games,
go to bed early. At dinner, I cry
to a Neil Young song and wonder,
Am I draining you?—how you fill me
to bursting and still have
the energy to go on.

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