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Justin Wymer's poems are at once lavish, haggard, and irrevocable. They flense the world they celebrate—laying bare each crevice, splitting textures to their blazing (perhaps blessed) entrails, dis-covering where a radical, even harshly abraded, nakedness to sensory experience gets caught up and reinvested, if not redressed, by a vibrant synesthetic imagination. His diction and music may be charged with a grandeur, but this would be Hopkins by way of Thunder, West Virginia, and via the Lorca-haunted streets of New York. The grandeur is inseparable from a corrosive modernity, the votive urgency working with a “rusty padlock on his lung.” Not to unlock or slip free, but to undergo. Not to evade but to survive, however “intricate with blight,” in some renewed “pact I made with the elements.” There’s solitude here, and hunger, and rare communion. Something hectic yet watchful, musically dense yet listening. If there are still genii in our loci—or in our very dis-locations—they dart and gather in Wymer’s fierce revelations.
My hand grown intricate with blight—the jointed outline
of a young rhododendron loosened and laid on the surface—
And to look up and notice
the drunken upheaval, the arthritic shoulders of maples
heaving themselves crazy—wearing flattened
skirts, flecked with hundreds of distressed blisters
of leaves—and an attentive hush, smoothing the aches—
rough interruptions of blue—dry
clusters of blossoms, freshly dead—small ornate
women with parched flesh hanging only by the crusts of their
dresses—I was never promised a world that
heals—It opens—What remains are empty mourning cloaks
seizing in billows of wind—and patches of lusterless gold
eating the soft green tendons—flashing
soundless pinpricks, mouths
fissures, pulsing inside
in all directions—aging
gypsies still trying to glow—
And the sudden smell of
fullness—veins full of dry tongues—and
the odors of hasty purples, lockstep,
layering every face like a worsted bruise—
If you touched the wind there would still remain a negative—
a rash of sequins shivering in waves—distant sororities of elms
shaking their momentous frocks of ivy shellacs—
translating Spring into clicks of
castanets—exuding a very cold, clinquant green blush—The
creatures of the soil ascend in shrill orchestras—plush
heat—revealing the pyre-lights
that ignite when sun chews through the veils—
dustings of blood, the pearly undersides of
damage taking on the tint of sunbreak—What was offered
was never meant to be loved, never meant to be
saved or stored away—
Where does scalp feel like
scalp—Could I peel the flesh from my
hips and wade through loss as smoothly as a nerve—
through all the thin hours—A pale
aqueous music now hovering over everything—unfolding
soft blue, wafting into my eyes—And
at once—tuned to a fear
so fawn-like it flicks from my left into my right lash and
settles into a thicket behind me, laying down—a florid fleck of
brown humming—Every breath a decision
so quick it is uninformed, like applause
one cannot help but carry through with—
Refrain from it—
in their margins, pendulous, swelling and
retreating in a frantic rockabye,
embers stoked before the body can cool—Focus on the
interstice—the pocket of static soaking in
a sleeved flavorless amber
—The lungs filling with an inexplicable
cotton horizon—the small angry
red bird ricocheting through the halls of the chest’s
stiffening cathedral—And then begin again—the terror of
unfurling—the upturned supplication of trees
holding lumps of argent light like slick fat icy carp—
It is impossible to imagine an evening not steeping in
the liquor of moldering peonies. The grass of
my heart is somewhere else. Yet afresh
in these totems—swan-necks,
casting shade-shreds of rubbish tumescent
on the sills—Everywhere a tremor is
underfoot—measured, mechanical, as if
what once dwelt here never left, not completely, but
instead buried light—that still extends into feet
in their orbits unfinished because they
Though terror is frivolous if known, it minds
its progeny, which extend upward and
out, pooling into denim
pockets with a forgotten lavishness
like that found in the meticulous bridles and careful seams
that once bristled in pilgrims’ Sunday best.
Strangers are the most stern and dependent
under the arms by crude flaxen headlights.
A thread’s width
away, I think myself wheat-colored. Queer. The plants
no longer seem to moan. As you creak
upon revival, consider the doors which delay—
even yours—offers in unavoidable
sincerity. Forgetting precedence, hold on to
something else, something
invariable. Provenance is a blood-system. A painting of
cool-armed figures hangs red-seamed
above my bed. Their faces
whitewashed in strokes like frozen thistle.
Several scarecrows know of
the pact I made with the elements.
In a field of purple wheat they flounder.
Disheveling the solid air of
a love act is all that we can do. I made it that
you fell into a field of corn. I made it that
the lone sapling was caught and bound.
Its amber hands, skinless extending upward rustling,
candelabras festooned with green waxy fingernails.
My wind is not ammunition though.
It displaces nothing memorable there can be no delay.
The fires are still tortured till their laughter coats humans.
I made it that there are many winters, like
the tickings of clocks which one learns to excuse.
The raining down of cold razors is
part of my persuasion. You must borrow a
nailful of frost to rust your joints so they
do not ash before the music starts. All good life
I gave as though I were suet flecked with gems.
The crowd is slaked for now:
a painted man wears a crown and dances
in the streets with a rusty padlock on his lung.
“Lupercalia” first appeared in Lana Turner.
Angles of Fog
Aerial view: nothing. Aerial view: nothing
but creases, where the dark
bournes between low-ledged mountains elide into one
another, inventing new forms.
The mountains’ sinuous ceaseless
sticky grass gestures upward, into great lilting
shoulders on which, even these nights, the city upturns
vials of tarnished glitter—and flicks forward
passers-by who run
the dusty rags of their hands through their
muggy hair, as they move through layers of slick shale—
the glistening swollen underbelly of
the fog revealing itself— as the people churn
under it, forward on the streets in vertical
strokes—chalk-sticks, blurred aster, the
distances between them in
a fogginess, sordid, goldenrod—and beside them—a church
revealing disuse, a strict-structured Monet
gone powdery and astray—And
moving the fog their legs are
plucked forward, painstakingly, propelled like marionettes
in a rippling bluefish wind—through it—their briskness
fretting into the lull and pasture of fog—their gaits strictured,
lively but wooden, as if snared in
a ritual, which is belonging. Now I see. Now I see
the fresh-wet fox
scudding far away, the Rembrandt stream of its tail
a brushstroke of a young Cantabrian girl’s dress
which has no place here—The red fox
recognizes home by its blemishes, flashes
down that painted lane, into its flooded
creek, across glutted rivers, their nearby
mothers, plumped with salamander-
rot, leaf-rot, dusk-rot, flotsam of house-
rot, rush of that suctioned-up red clay having
streaked across every habitable
hollow—rot temporarily given up
and let out by persistent late tulip poplar clusters—
flags of reason, blank—harsh tiny oval swatches
tinted with weight—and all around
a sprained thicket of vertical lilies, fields of
rank water, cracked wells—I know:
if I could stay here long enough, in this
scissoring scrim of mist, I would understand
flensing. I would tell everyone all the words for
bare that I ignore. I would lie
low inside rust, the woods,
despite the whittling of wood-notes that here gives
each day the same dry grainy fog-bloated white-
wash of sound which
I ignore. A loss
saps time to gather all it leaves. It has its syrupy after-blessings.
And mine a red eye that seeks—it is autumn—the crackling
of the hundred-throated brushfires.
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