Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ben Purkert, For The Love Of Endings


The plural of anything is bound to be sharper:

countless birds spelling V above my head.

Where they land, the earth must slightly compress,

hardening under their cool weight.

Wing-shadows held against their breasts.

Each bird only tries to be

what it is, & people call this intelligence.

We write it down, star it somewhere in our notes.

When our minds wander, they go alone.

After hearing of American poet Ben Purkert’s debut full-length collection for a while, I’m finally able to get into his For The Love Of Endings (New York NY: Four Way Books, 2018), a collection of smart, knowing lyric poems that work through a series of meditations, explorations and even some recriminations. “[L]ike most men,” he writes, to open the poem “DEAR EX,” “I’ll gaze // at anything to avoid looking / inward.” The reflections are open, wide-eyed and breathless, writing out pared down and slow-paced sentences and line-breaks that cause the heart to pause, and the gaze to sharpen. As he writes to close the poem “THE PAST IS THE PRESENT ONLY COLDER”:

You & I could trade places
& still the water around our lives

would be level. Someday I’ll lock
myself away, then flatten my breath

against the glass. I’ll leave a smiley
in the fog. All movies end in tragedy,

names leaping off the screen.

There is an enormous amount to parse here, and an enormous amount to absord. As well, there is something reminiscent of Canadian poet Jack Davis’ Faunics (Pedlar Press, 2017) [see my review of such here] in Purkert’s meditative breath and quick wisdoms, one that allows for the essential words to emerge, and letting all else fall away. How could one not pause at some of these lines, as he opens the title poem, the prose-sequence “FOR THE LOVE OF ENDINGS”: “The blank page always wins.”


Not the heart of a place
but its black box. Not words
but wings scrawled across
a page, almost onto
the next. Am I reading
too much into night?
A star was what is.
A star looks backwards,
says the sea.

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