Saturday, January 20, 2018

Megan Levad, What Have I To Say To You

all the way

over there in my body

I watch while
eighteen hundred parents

stand for the Hallelujah
chorus in a college gymnasium

From here I see it
my body

waving to you
like wheat in the wind

course, plain, alive

under the sun
like everything

San Francisco poet and librettist Megan Levad’s second full-length poetry collection, following Why We Live in the Dark Ages (Portland OR: Tavern Books, 2015), is What Have I To Say To You (Tavern Books, 2017). Composed as a book-length lyric suite, Levad’s poems explore the intimate at an extremely high speed, moving through the imagination and the body with great detail and dexterity. As she writes: “IN THAT SCENARIO / I think I would // save your mother // you would get / the fifty-fifty // I would drown // the most romantic / way to go // But I might be wrong  […].” Levad’s first person accumulation of pieces read as though it could be a letter composed at the end of a relationship or affair, or an interior monologue on what might have gone wrong, ending up as a curious blending of both that doesn’t necessarily require to be read in order to comprehend.

I am my own Texas

I am a stadium
filled with screaming fans

I have no one to talk to

I am Amelia Earhart
piloting the Kittyhawk

with the Lindbergh baby
strapped to my chest

I am first in everything

I am a career violinist

The bruise on my neck
I did to myself

Levad’s epistolary accumulations are intriguing, and move from confrontation to meditation, interior monologue to direct speech. The “you” of her title, in a certain way, becomes superfluous, or at least secondary, making the remainder of her title a question she works with great attention and detail to answer. What Have I To Say To You might suggest a direct response to another, but it feels just as much a kind of intricate, lyric character study composed as monologue. Just who is the “I” that is speaking, and what has she to say, exactly, to anyone?

is broken

it can be replaced

needle, cork, shallow dish
is all it takes

More difficult
is learning

the compass is broken

That part takes decades
of wandering in the desert

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