Alex Green’s poem “Blue Door Option” was first published in New Ohio Review 6, Fall 2009. It’s wonderfully paced and narrated with an authenticity of weirdness that I find terrifically appealing. When students ask how to know if one’s poem should be lineated or in prose format, I invariably say a lot of words that amount to a mystified shrug. What I want to do is point to a poem like this one and say, See? When it is a prose poem it just IS one. Prose poems aren’t distinguished just by the primacy of narrative, though certainly that’s part of it. They tend to create a headlong momentum and upwelling, an unstoppable sweep, which is a bit more difficult to achieve in lines. The very act of lineating can promote a sense of decelerating deliberation -- a somehow more measured effect. (Of course it’s foolish to generalize, therefore I’m compelled to do it.)
I love the fear expressed in this poem that an unwell magician might leave a trick un-undoable; and the idea of a magician’s falsetto “you could feel across your shoulders,” as if he could palpably throw his voice. If that’s true, then surely Roy Orbison was a magician too. Actually, I thought immediately of Andy Kaufman when I first read this poem, so it was gratifying for me to learn today that Kaufman also went by the name of Nathan McCoy.
Here’s Alex Green’s poem.
Blue Door Option
Everybody knew the magician was dying and this would be his last party. And it was too bad because all of his ex-girlfriends were there—even Stacey Mitchell, the news anchor who he had lived with on a houseboat when he held his breath for the whole summer. He was taking requests. He would do whatever we wanted. He would make birds explode from his chest, steal wallets from anyone in the room, build a house of cards on the back of his hand—all we had to do was ask. But no one did, because everyone was sure he would crack in the middle, fall to the floor and leave something suspended they could never fix. So instead of magic, he sang an old Nathan McCoy song about losing something in Hawaii. He had a falsetto you could feel across your shoulders. His hands were thin, he hadn’t slept in two months, and you were the only one who knew a few weeks earlier he had parked his car somewhere and never saw it again. When he was too sick to come out for his own garage sale, he told you to give everything away. You watched people take his couch, his television, his doves, and you felt like you were officiating a robbery. If you’re a decent magician, he once told you, when you die people will miss you. But if you’re a really great magician, they’ll always think you’re alive and in the middle of the best trick of all time. Even though you watched him fade in front of a machine, heard his breathing disappear like a radio station slipping off the air, you still look for him. In the eyes of the teller at the bank, in the stands at minor league baseball games, in the credits of independent movies from Iceland—you suspect everyone. He was that good.
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Alex Green is the editor of the online music magazine www.caughtinthecarousel.com and the author of The Stone Roses (Continuum), which is a cultural and political examination of the legendary Manchester band's debut album. His collection of poems “The Wide Gates Of The Lowlands” has just been completed, and he recently collaborated with director Tom DiCillo (Living In Oblivion, When You're Strange) on a screenplay called Years Of Summers.
-- Be virtually seeing you next week! (JAR)