Moths feather your far gazebo
like young sailors on first leave.
You know something, and keep reminding me
of my own needs. You see an audience
of blooming heads and sugared bank notes,
and act accordingly. The swallows see it at five o’clock,
a Wolfman’s tragedy.
They hang themselves upside down,
handsome sienna prizes in the semaphore of bats.
Swayed by a summer night, I swing out
to your silk pocket square standing at attention,
a bird about-face. You’re the dark dew on the green grass of home.
The busses will take you as far as the source of the Nile,
or to mad beautiful Marseillaises. It costs almost nothing
to get to perfume country, if jasmine, cigarettes and sinisterism
are what you’re after. Ships, geraniums, and old money
decorate the slumped logic of night, and it wastes no time
wrapping its rocky switchbacks around your slipped mind.
Melancholy fades, and you take out your navy jacket for our stroll
into splendour. What’s this town missing? Is it the taste of caviar
in my mouth, or is it the grass of youth? The casbah near the bus station
is a dream on repeat, and that might be
the best answer I’ll get. How desire becomes a hiving forest.
On the empty boardwalk, I must consider
this crime ring, this symposium of marriages,
evenings of middle-aged sentiment, and a faraway sigh
that realizes it has too much money. Why have we come south?
Feel the wind ballooning. It longs to bring on a gorgeous shudder.
One sunny day after another, Augusts come off the ocean
and shorten our lives. Winter with me here.
To An Ideal
I noticed you first, your birth a paranormal float on that sintered
causeway of white light. As a gift moves us to tears, so your
amatory pleas re-amortized all our uses for Moreau & Mastroianni
in La Notte, along Rome’s hospital road, the grace of her hardened outbacks
swayed by illuminations of buxom blondes on ceramic piazzas.
Do I take this man as a full bouquet? I do.
Bus stations when they mattered—when they épatait la bourgeoisie...
rounded the corners of each Viewmaster slide.
They called me the hyacinth girl, an allusive-historical
moment propice that fairly educated T. S. Eliot on Henry James.
Then James was labeled pale porpoise by Vladimir Nabokov.
Quick to judge; aesthetically judgmental. In truth, like a hyacinth,
a limp handkerchief, a little goodbye. Whomsoever has reason to object.
Juror, face the accused. Accused, face the juror. There’s that star moment,
the delicate cliffhanger when an Olympian gymnast’s taped feet come into focus
on TV, and it is the cliché, it is the still point of the turning of the world,
from which an analogical chain forms in our minds: torrential rain
to missed balance beam; Ayer’s Rock, resting as some junked furnace of the gods,
to a motherboard which, from Central Command on the Deity’s planet,
was sent the final last regulatory body for this mortal coil.
In front of the daily glow of your magic lantern, how do you adopt the
depressive position? How can such flickerings bring on suspicion, harvest
your light from perspective studies by Flemish masters? I can’t
know this, because there are some things that remain terrible, sublime,
agglutinous, in the gulf between what I notice and what I should want.
I look back in wonder. I’m always in recovery over such things.
Maybe curatorial velocity is realized with the help
of a lever-operated Scopitone, a one-armed bandit peep show.
Sunshine, so much of it, leaving a purple sheen.
Cinema of a fairy world, chimera of woods.
Cedar- and pine-framed memories of childhood.
The soft relief of those conifers across the lake, long and late.
My melancholias were prequels to my mortsafes.
Armed with the new logic, Paul de Man played the ingénue,
a Swiss Army knife of delusion and semblance. He depended on the kindness of
strangers. They fell away, and he became that awful unheimlich: himself.
Get this: Titan arum, the world’s largest flower, bloomed. A lime green
phallus, shot from the centre of an undulated, cabbage-purple cup of shrubbery.
If Longinus had a vagina. The long story of the vagina.
Pope says science can unite humans with God (Huffington Post).
The long and vagina of it.
Science says Pope can unite God with humans.
(Poems reprinted by permission of the author)
Annik Adey-Babinski: The poems in Sumptuary Laws are brimming with rich language that leaves the reader almost breathless from their frenetic energy. Sound, from assonance to alliteration to the novelties of uncommon words, is rather pronounced in your writing. I am wondering about the role of breath in your work, and how the “exciting” language you’ve used in these poems affects the speed and energy of your poetry when read aloud. When composing, how conscious are you of the manipulation of your reader’s breath?
Nyla Matuk: Thank you for your interesting question. The phrasing and sound effects such as assonance and alliteration give some of my poems a certain breathless atmosphere. Poems such as “Petit-mort,” “Don Draper” or “Aquarium” require a kind of pause / speed combination when read. That tempo relationship, which becomes more obvious if the poems are read aloud, maintains the energy or excitement you perceived.
The sense, or meaning, is sometimes gleaned from the sound of poems like these ones, with their alternating pauses and speediness of word flow. In “Petit-mort,” syllabically similar words like “dream,” “breath,” “death” “dress,” “rave,” “rêve” and “red” and also slant rhymes like “ornamental dilemmas” culminate in the sense or meaning, which in this case, is the stoat’s “final stand” referring to a last gasp before a “small death” (in French, a petit mort, meaning orgasm).
So the speediness of the words put together, as the poem gallops toward its ending, also conveys, using sound, the particularity of the sense. I was especially conscious of the reader’s breath when composing this poem because it demanded constant sub-vocalizing as I wrote, to ensure that the order of the words worked for the sense to manifest accurately. In other poems, I am less conscious of the reader’s breath, and more conscious of the way words might sound if they are set side by side, or as an enjambment down to a new line.
Not all of my poems emphasize the energy of sound, but it’s a recurrent preoccupation in my writing and I have already composed a few new poems in this manner, since the publication of Sumptuary Laws.
Annik Adey-Babinski grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and studies in Miami at Florida International University. You can find her writing in recent issues of Salamander, Hobart, and Transom Journals.
Nyla Matuk’s first full-length collection, Sumptuary Laws, appeared in 2012 with Montreal’s Véhicule Press. A chapbook, Oneiric, appeared in 2009 with Frog Hollow Press of Victoria, B.C. Her poems have appeared in, or are forthcoming in, Maisonneuve, The Walrus, Literary Review of Canada, Hazlitt, The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012, Poetry is Dead, The Fiddlehead, and PN Review among others. She was a finalist for the 2012 Walrus Poetry Prize and Sumptuary Laws was shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for a first book of poetry. She lives in Toronto.