PARKING FOR THE FUNERAL
One week later I’m a
completely different person.
I don’t even recognize the person from eight days ago.
Their unrelated habits and features, askew and sourer breath.
The one who bruised and scraped up
my undersides, that was a fleeting stranger.
Doing the work. We’re doing the work. Working every day
to tolerate an airport breakfast, show up
at the gig without bloodshot anything, trot
past the bronze lion without haste.
Neck thick like a wolfman. It takes taming.
From the lightning sky, dead in the tongue.
Wrapped in a rainbow like always, divorcing myself.
Philadelphia guitarist, songwriter, singer, producer and poet Sadie Dupuis’s second full-length collection, following MOUTHGUARD (Boston MA: Black Ocean, 2018), is Cry Perfume (Black Ocean, 2022), a collection the publisher describes as “a collection of lyrical poems that engage with grief and loss and the toll of overdose and addiction with an activist bent.” Dupuis’ short, declarative narratives are set with a dark undertone and absurdist, surreal sheen; she writes narratives that feel off-balance, unable to completely find solid ground. “I chew up my feet,” she writes, to open the poem “MY PRETTY POET,” “Running down a mountain times five / When I buy the green gem / I’m envied by thousands / When I look into the makeup monitor / My eyes are the color of American money / Bleach-sanitized [.]” There’s a particular kind of swagger through these lyric character studies, one that carries a tone of exhaustion across a weight of experiences through performance, touring and loss; around, as the back cover offers, the “glamorized toxicities often inherent in entertainment.” “Today I saw the best show ever.” she writes, to open “BOWLING A 666,” “Today I drank the best tonic, it was bought for me. // My ambition keeps me fixed to the pratly center part / of a guitarist with no dynamics. // Friday the 10th and it’s not auspicious. / In the mint washroom with yellowed egg wall prints / constructing a mental self-portrait for a lineup of pinups.” There aren’t that many poetry titles that seem to emerge specifically from and on the topic of touring musicians, although Vancouver poet Catherine Owen’s punk collection Trobairitz (Vancouver BC: Anvil Press 2012) certainly comes to mind, but there is something of Cry Perfume that links it closer to Vancouver writer Michael Turner’s infamous Hard Core Logo (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1993), the poetry collection famously adapted into a feature film by Bruce McDonald in 1996. Composed as notes from the road, there is an energy of endurance and exhaustion through these poems. There are delights here, and hard lessons and losses, examining the joys and fallows of performance and touring, conversations around harm and harm reduction, music, isolation and connection. Or, as the poem “I’M SO TIRED BY THE BEATLES” ends:
My black and white movie
Show up because life is dotty
It’s all anyone can do
Wired on plasma
into the mirror
I’m tired of you