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Introduced by Larissa Szporluk
In Daniel Rzicznek’s poems we bear witness to enough of a process to be engaged and enough cloaking to be enticed, and these two tendencies swing back and forth like an enchanting pendulum. We watch the poet consciously violating categories: corn becomes oceanic, fossils are welded, clouds become fabric, toyhouses have basements that extend into hell, motorcycles meditate, ordinary objects are fished and sexed and manic, a mind gives birth to frogs. Sometimes the kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal) are in conflict, sometimes in harmony, and always interacting. This is the deepest task of imagination, to reorganize the world and feed newness to the ordinary. Yet we don’t center the phenomena of these poems around the poet, because they are too powerful, too rapid. By the time we have observed them into being, they are off and running. There is a Frankenstein’s monster aspect to Rzicznek’s poems—the creature, endowed with electric life, runs off to the countryside, not to hide but to continue the art. We step out of the poems and they’re still there; instead of evaporating back into the poet, they succeed him. The cloak, then, emerges from the realization of a “runaway” creativity and its suggestion of a residence beyond the author’s will. We sense that the result is endless and endlessly changing, a kind of amusement park of poems in which the rides are unpredictable: the music of the gears and wheels is the clenching of consonance—“fossil,” “recall,” “welded,” “little,” “electric”—and the imagery exceeds the machinery. This is poetry that surpasses invention to become an actual integrated part of what we can no longer un-imagine. Yes, it is “worked,” and yes, it is mysterious, not because we don’t understand it but because we do: we are certain that it is just around the corner, or under the shrubbery, not quite right over there.
Some old steam went down the riverbed.
The woodpecker is a dead woman.
One view of the cosmos shows me glee.
Two pheasants tangle with a sapling pine.
I put a curse on the dog and left.
A hammer under the floor springs roots.
One view of the cosmos shows me rot.
I swear the emerald mountain moved.
In several ways, the fields are all alive.
The name of the bobwhite is its sound.
My pinecone roof is sturdy still in winter.
I saw my eyebrows pushing at the river.
The dog put a curse on me, then vomited.
A raccoon fell down the chimney and burned.
My sweaters all fly up in loose threads.
One view of the sky shows me blisters.
The forest echoes with soil blinking.
My door is eating slowly away at its edge.
The world put a curse on me and laughed.
I swear the range of sadness widens.
The opossums are all hapless widowers.
A farm two roads over smoked itself down.
Old bottles in the woods love the mud.
I’ve thought about kneeling near the stream.
One view of the cosmos shows me two roads.
The stove coughs red into the morning.
Last summer was the time of wellsprings.
Three crows are shitting on the woodpile.
My long hair was my own lightning.
Froth flooded to greet me at the stoop.
The color of a frog blends with the ferns.
I put a curse on the dead woman and wept.
I saw seven bats veering in the snow.
My house weighs ten times more in spring.
One view of the cosmos shows me light.
My long, windy life finds an empty den.
The hawk that spiraled down was an angel.
When there was town here
I sprouted. As the humans
bound a baby, dropped it
to the freezing river, I knew only
that the child levitated,
lucent in some quick vein
of the air’s dark sugar.
Now pheasants stitch the edge
of terrain, the pagan wheat
cast beneath itself by sky.
My leaves pause around me,
brittle boats unanchored
to the seething winds.
Loose stretches of cloud ripple
like banners of a bloodrich
city overhead. I place my mark
on the screech owl, the vole,
every heart under my motion,
though the river rules this place—
bones nestled in the alleys
of its trout-flashed bottom—
and I touch the names of arrows
all through this one-eyed sleep.
A freckled pair of newts
lay dead as guests
in the circular kitchen—
ochre fronds open, gills
to a heavens of balsa.
A fly gleams once,
metal green in the attic
with clear stomach hooks,
a tube for glands
and an eye each for us
leveled at our lives,
wooden as we are
and as empty. If only
a little lawn, we think, and
soil hungry under floor—
that we could drop
downward through the rift
to the places longed for:
surgery of slow dirt,
the hues marigolds shed
candled in the earth,
this faith in black thumbs
of lava heaving matter
into pigeons of smoke,
webbed bodies sighted
as pulsing points of coal,
tailbones set like rubies
in dust’s sane display.
The core, its nearness—
the killing heat cures us.
Genius of Frogs
In the room drawn from rain
I’ve tied maps to the ceiling
to track the flecks of winter
in each summer’s sprung instant,
and the notched, pump-handle tail
of the dusk-scented phoebe
perched on a gutter the wind pulls
atom by atom apart each night.
Steel tufts of cumulus sweep
under my charge and yellows
of automobile headlamps snake
through mountainways beneath.
I mold a calendar from earth,
arranging the air’s lean mouth
between the sharp flashing of cars,
the phoebe’s broken path of eggs,
and a slew of dewy eyes tug away
from one another into the prethought
of legs: the coming-to,
the disappearance at water’s door.
Dusk plummets—a numb anger
behind the tidal screens
of corn, the day’s noise
haunting the sanguine ridges
in the throats of animals
so quick and plain I can tell
what they are from the pine
I sway in. The coyotes
harbor fur and trample by
on all fours. The pine’s sage lace
thickens its sap in the shoring
light. The living
with their windowed eyes lick
the angles of wilderness:
where the beech meets the row,
where under the soybeans
a fossil asleep does not recall
its welded eye—does not hear
the little, electric curse
I mutter toward the town.
The motorcycle meditates
in the neighbor’s drive—silver
beyond the silver of fishes—
handles rising sexed
and armlike. I prowl my yard,
flannel replicating in miniature
the dimensions I tend & fence.
In fresh mulch, near the fort
of my shoe, ants weave
late circles. This morning
the glacier fluttered its tongues
again and I foresaw my children
bronzed in frostworn hollows,
my wife shining at the top,
arms silver and crossed,
centering her innards on herself.
But work stretches ahead of me:
many trees here stand dead,
the shrubs need pampering
or showered in chemical spit.
Every fungal face will atrophy
into black suds and uselessness.
There has been a lurching
under the tarp of my skin
and though the glacier has ceased
its mutterings for now, it has slid
toward this country half
of a half of a hair. I cannot
extinguish this thankfulness.
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