Sunday, January 23, 2011

With the sound of grasses heaving: The Poetry of Marcus Reichert (Book Review) by Connie Stadler

In the first poem of Marcus Reichert’s new collection Confessions, he speaks of a conversation:

His face in profile is the face
of a ruined king, a lachrymose cardinal.

We are immediately arrested. In this seemingly casual exchange of inconsequence, there is terrible beauty. In a sidelong glance, there are portents. A lifetime of squandered intimacy is seen, beheld, held up. Such men have become our emblems, our totems. Impoverishment is our discourse. The moment of recognition is both tender and scathing. It is the crimson sky before the apocalypse.

Reichert’s poems speak to an ‘abject euphoria’, but it is in no way morbid. Rather, we are taken into the fabric and weavings of that recognition ~ an epistemological journey, a nomadic trek. His words reach deep into the crevasses of perceived existence. Yes, it is dark. Yes, a ‘sweet purgatory of unnumbered days and evenings’. He speaks to existential moment:

At dusk, we watch our children leave the hollow
unaware in our communion with ourselves that
they could find nothing, no refuge in the sublime
moments past. They beckon from afar, the gates
closed permanently behind them, like eyelids.

~ Eden Falls

What if the journey is meaningless? If there is no teleological destination? The response here is not facile nihilism, but rather a brave, albeit exquisitely pained, consideration at the precipice. But there is more. What is the consequence of the solipsistic view? We smell the anesthetic. Like Eliot, Reichert’s immanent, looming words are modulated in virile yet soothing tonalities. We walk with a friend who sees and understands.

But the poet does not stop there. We move into interiors, not really certain at how we have arrived. Perhaps that is good, because the fallacy of arrival speaks to the price of Tiresias’ passage:

Send me no light
on these winnowing hills
to drive me
deeper into chaos

Please do not lead me
down into her valleys,
as she tells me
the untruths of centuries.

Please do not break
this infernal calm
with the sound
of grasses heaving
in a succulent wind.

~ Send Me No Light

The blinding forces are tempered by an almost ineffable embrace: ‘with the sound of grasses heaving in a succulent wind’. The corridors of mind become palpable. In a musicality that pulsates in vivid colorations, there is both revealed richness in this sight and refractions of the price paid for a continuum of seeing over the safety of veneer and threshold.

Language is held up to the sun and rotated through prisms in these poems. But, importantly, this is not done in any self-conscious way, rather, as befitting the metaphysician, in a discovering discourse:

What is the sky telling us tonight,
deeper and darker than a mother’s breath?

~ Light of Day

Moreover, if we are to see through the prism, there is a need for homage. There is a need to tremble.

I am exceedingly grateful
to be just another kneeling
at the edge of your lazy river,
it’s grandeur too magnificent
for this child to comprehend.

~ The Supplicant’s Palms

Finally, it is about passage and the sense of end. Finally, it is about the authenticity of an extended hand. Finally, it is about mercy . In On Dying, as in all the work in this remarkable volume, Reichert’s words remain with us in the cadence of tremolo and we are less afraid.

The woman who takes me down into the
smouldering leaves of my thought also opens
the sky wide with redemption as I plainly see
the sympathy of others alone in their fear,
knowing they shall, like me, finally lie down
somewhere within the misbegotten vastness
that is the grandeur of our oblivion.
Mingle with me, she says, as we are taken beyond
the cinders of sun and moon to where we began.

Author bio:

Constance Stadler has published five chapbooks, most recently, Tinted Steam (Shadow Archer Press) and Sublunary Curse (Erbacce), a full manuscript, Paper Cuts (Calliope Nerve Media) and a collaborative book with Rich Follett, Responsorials (Neopoiesis Press). A new ebook, Rummaging in the Attic, is set for release (Differentia Press).

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