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Alicia Rabins

Alicia Rabins's Platzpoems willfully blur the boundaries between the acts of speaking out of a moment and speaking of a moment. Each poem is in and of its place at the same time. For the reader, there is no resigning to description of event or place, but rather the delight of engagement with a moment in time and place. There is no portrait against the lids of the eye: the background will be the foreground will be the lens of, the speaking with "the dialogue of body with place." I think these poems are a way of articulating the porousness of consciousness. Place plays-as in speaks to, informs. Others, in the corporal sense, are often present along with the speaker, and the magic of these poems is that they insist we feel, recognize, and adjust to the jostling, as well as the jockeying for physical, mental and emotional place. The German platz (defined in my on-line dictionary as "amount of place, pew, place, plaza, room, seat, space, spot") is activity and object, perhaps more narrowly subject and verb. Rabins's own notions of subjectivity are constantly being challenged by the surround sound of the poems' origins of place. Maybe it's in this conscious shift of accommodation of self to place that the poet's own process of association and movement unveils itself. Sometimes when I read these poems I think of the moment in the Prelude when Wordsworth writes, "I had a world about me-'twas my own / I made it; for it only lived to me." The "me" of the Platzpoem is the "we" of Rabins's readership, forced as we are to view reading as an activity rather than a watching.

--Claudia Rankine


Platzpoem: Basement


Many drums inhabit this smoky basement, subdividing space/like ski poles cutting
through the snow/then being erased in snow.
Like the highwire walker on his strung-across core/of breathing wire: he can stop
but not/stop balancing.

One thumb in the socket of plum pie / one fluorescent thyrsus in the other hand we
stumble, always forward, sometimes down,
Down through the cracks in skin to swim among celestial red globules
Where there is, terribly, no gravity . . . where drummers bang with bloodied hands.
Ah but look, things are sitting still here even if they hurtle:

There in the chair-is the love of my life!
There in arbitrary flame-is my best zither.
There in rhythmic disarray-is one who asks too much from gin-soaked limes.
My friend, look at the wood grain, oceanic in many ways,
it lets what rears its head
lay back. Relax.
You glide in with Elizabeth's saxophone and point its perennial mouth out to us.
Then lay it in its chair like a broom against the wall which holds the whole room up.


Platzpoem: KGB Bar

Soviet mirror, mirror of beer-
In which I spy the Intruder
who sends me a telegram with his eyes:
THE DICE ROLL STOP BUT THEY'RE STILL DICE STOP
I roll it up & hold a match to its lip and let it drop into my red ash tray
I hide my face behind a paperback romance

Sometimes I feel, walking beside the river,
that I'm trying to make a stick's stump understand fire.
Or else I'm trying to look at the sun on the river and succeeding.

A tangerine oval stains the water
like a flat orange boat, the sun's submarine surfaces
like the first kiss of half an inch from the lady spy with the accent you can't place
like-like-I think these things instead of succumbing to you, Professor.
Nevertheless,
this young witch will take off her clothes & demonstrate
the science of optic nutrition, you have only to ask.
For I am a doctor of light, Professor, and my own assistant. Witness:

Light pulls itself off the river through the healthy frozen air
Light that had to come from somewhere
Light that is something we made up a word for having been banished
from a tower
Light that is the words written after the book has been shattered

Platzpoem: My New Room

I am a monk. The light barely burns.
I am a mover. The light is packed.
I am home. What does that mean? I own it. -kind of.

But even here, you won't leave me alone.
You undress in front of me repeatedly,
you draw the curtains shut, you voyeur, peeking from a thousand unlit windows.
Peeking between our relation and the differences that will keep us skating
on to the next "you."

The differences that would lead one to pee on a fire to put it out
or bite someone's cheek who has kissed one, or knock him down,
a monkish fantasy in stone.

Here is painfully white and empty. My boxes are not here.
You are not here. No one else is here. They are
somewhere else, in their homes.
Saturday night hinges into Sunday morning & I don't even know what a peignoir is!

Is it a quilted pigeon? A black stylus?
Is it the couch a wife reclines on while her husband prays?
I have no couch!

What are these wires and how close am I really to the customers
across the street who tell me, "Awake, I am awake."
I love everyone who is at home tonight with the lights on.
Each layer of lights like the inside of a fly's eye.
I am in the binoculars and my heart is beating fast, my neck burns.
If I ever meet you, I'll bring you back to this very bed
and together we'll look at your dark window.


Platzpoem: Cabaret

Among candlelit bricks the hostesses
Are spreading their legs in all directions of time
In a red dress a black dress & black plastic pants
They twirl trays high above their heads
Like flowers spun so fast they're flattened.

Spread looseness of sushi. Tightly bound in seaweed.
Cabaret snacks of fish & pickles, parade of mouths
Sucking each other, a horizontal parade, horizontal slalom zig zagging up to and beyond
Me looking at you on stage
In that tweed vest.

Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime
Si je t'aime, prends-garde à toi

I looked out for me & you looked sorry: watch out.
I hung my head when you left: watch me.
I took another glass of wine from her tray: dawn watch.
O my faculty folds when I behold
You, olde day paramour. Hey-
You on the balcony-down here!
Sweetest of sweets panacea sweetmeat
I move up you move down
We're children waiting by the cigarette factory
For the doors to open.

The stage holds you like a ruby between its sharp mathematical breasts.
Here in the audience, a corresponding spot blossoms.


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