Friday, September 18, 2020

Aditi Machado, Emporium

I came along a silk route. I came low like low things. Slow, farcical
leaves rimmed the trees. Some chic birds. I came along a long way,
bolstered by merchants and prophylactics and an obscure shade
that became my practice. (“Herewith the prologue:”)

Aditi Machado’s second full-length poetry title, following Some Beheadings New York NY: (Nightboat Books, 2017) [see my review of such here] is Emporium (Nightboat Books, 2020), a book-length poem with a narrative framing, that of following “a merchant woman as she travels a twenty-first-century ‘silk route,’ trading her wares while becoming ‘lost’ in un-monetizable reciprocities and the sensory excesses of the marketplace: coins changing hands, the odors of food and sweat, the ‘noise’ of translation and multilingualism.” Winner of the 2019 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, as judged by Gillian Conoley, Fady Joudah and Cole Swenen, the structure of Emporium exists as a sequence of individual poem-suites, fragments accumulating into something more than the sum, all wrapped together as a single, book-length unit. “Amid the falling narrative,” she writes, in “collusion / cusp this,” “I go to the movies / and can’t say where in the mob I’m not, / the film so draws an endlessness.” Hers is a poem on margins, most of which never end up affecting the centre but in turn can’t help but be affected by that centre. As the poem “Experiment with Aspic” begins: “It commences. Here / it is endless. Mostly / poverty. Parallel to / the railway track. / Manure, procession, / conniptions. It is crisp. / A labyrinth. It is here / it commences. Lac, / it is said. Or albumen.”

Hers is an expansive lyric, one that exists as a sequence of sections broken into postcard collage, lyric fragment, prose exploration, billboard phrases and doctor’s notes. I’m delighted to see her chapbook-length Rhapsody (Albion Books, 2020) [see my review of such here] included as part of Emporium. “Let us stumble around, humming, stumbling, humming.” she writes, “Then something in the shape of leaves, / something in the touching of ‘red.’” Emporium is a story told through the collage, the accumulation-collage of fragments, lyrics and prose-structures, one with not even a narrative centre or even the character of the merchant woman, but a seeking, searching, lyric heart. “Or did I mean history?” she writes, “Did I mean shale? / & of what is it collaged? How does it cohere? / Sudden queries, sudden as vendors, do they sell / fruit, sell textile? I’ve been so exact / I’ve cut corners. O obsolenscencec, o light brain / siting the accidental tree, I desire cinema / in a sense all factories sense / the dilemma. Ought I / shove off?”


As if I could simply pass through
the carts, hand myself over to some notions
piled on a cart, trade away certain desires
amid the silk & squid, certainty
like a quality of gems & cautious doctrines,
trade away myself—wouldn’t be
too unlovely, in derivative light, lamps all
succulence above the general meat, would it,
butchers?—for tartan weather or any gridlike
complexity of time & back to square

  the sugar makes a mound there
as once bright pyramids & the smells here
are superlative, all brine & depth as though
one upon the other we effloresced. &
the tapestries descend & wouldn’t we
endlessly such velvet landscapes buy?

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