Thursday, January 27, 2022

Brianna Ferguson, A Nihilist Walks Into A Bar


Sober Truth

Last night we made beeswax candles
with wax from our own hive.
I don’t know what else people do

at night when they’re not drinking.
we spent hours refining and melting and

pouring the wax, and when we went to light one,
the whole thing burned up in two seconds.

Like the organic deodorant
I used when I was eighteen and terrified

of breast cancer. The deo didn’t
do anything and neither did the candle

and I guess that’s why we developed
all those chemicals that are killing the earth.

Fresh armpits and scented candles
might seem small

against the whole world, but
have you ever sat in a smelly room

or gone to school with BO?

From Okanagan Valley poet Brianna Ferguson comes the full-length debut, A Nihilist Walks Into A Bar (Toronto ON: Mansfield Press, 2021), an assemblage of quirky, first-person narratives, writing out self-awareness, searching and seeking answers, as well as the questions themselves. “You might think time makes adults of us all,” she writes, to close the poem “Gas Leak,” “but I don’t know / where you got that idea.” There is a lovely swagger to these explorations that speak of interactions on public transportation, marriage, noxious and natural body odours and first jobs. As her opening poem, “Just Words,” offers: “With words, / all things can be accomplished.” and there is something optimistic about a lyric engaged with such open-minded searches for clarity and comprehension. The poem continues, to conclude: “If enough people / believe something, how can it not be true?” Hers is a lyric of narrative exploration, and there are curious ways that Ferguson asks big and complicated questions through a straightforward language, seeking insight against what might be nigh impossible. In the end, she trusts her own mind, and the uncertainty of words, as well as her growing list of questions. Hers are smart poems with a wry humour, exploring a pivot into adulthood, and finding, confirming and re-confirming her bearings, as the end of the poem “Impossible To Waste” offers:

If I’m honest, though,
I don’t remember how I’ve spent
most of my days,

regardless of what I did.

My husband once said to me
after a bland and meaningless day at work,
if nothing means anything

in the cosmic sense,
then nothing matters any less

or any more than anything else.

Which, if you can
stomach it, really takes
the pressure off.


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