New Poem in The Los Angeles Review!
I’m very pleased to have a poem from my current manuscript-in-progress, Wild Kingdom, in the current issue of The Los Angeles Review. “Gadfly” is an homage to a poem that I love, “The World as Will and Representation,” by Robert Hass. Like Larry Levis, Hass is so very good at writing a narrative poem that also lifts into the lyrical. Consider this moment:
It was the late nineteen forties, a time,
A social world, in which the men got up
And went to work, leaving the women with the children.
His wink at me was a nineteen-forties wink.
He watched her closely so she couldn’t “pull
A fast one” or “put anything over” on a pair
As shrewd as the two of us. I hear those phrases
In old movies and my mind begins to drift.
The reason he ground the medications fine
Was that the pills could be hidden under the tongue
And spit out later. The reason that this ritual
Occurred so, early in the morning–I was told,
And knew it to be true–was that she could
If she wanted, induce herself to vomit,
So she had to be watched until her system had
Absorbed the drug. Hard to render, in these lines,
The rhythm of the act. He ground two of them
To powder in a glass, filled it with water,
Handed it to her, and watched her drink.
I adore how Hass meditates on the difficulty of recreating this memory, then attempts “to render” the experience nonetheless, in language that does indeed have a rhythm. And here’s the end of “The World as Will and Representation”:
You know the passage in the Aeneid? The man
Who leaves the burning city with his father
On his shoulders, holding his young son’s hand,
Means to do well among the flaming arras
And the falling columns while the blind prophet,
Arms upraised, howls from the inner chamber,
“Great Troy is fallen. Great Troy is no more.”
Slumped in a bathrobe, penitent and biddable,
My mother at the kitchen table gagged and drank,
Drank and gagged. We get our first moral idea
About the world–about justice and power,
Gender and the order of things–from somewhere.
We move from a moment in the Aeneid to a memory of the speaker’s mother–an alcoholic–as she drinks the very thing that makes her so sick. The moment of “gagged and drank, / Drank and gagged” echoes the speaker’s earlier consideration of rendering “The rhythm of the act.”
In any case, I feel Hass’s influence in “Gadfly” and am so grateful to The Los Angeles Review for publishing the poem, which you can read here.