Jeez, just when you think you sort of know someone. Picture the engraving by M. C. Escher, Encounter: a placid white man, the negative space around him metamorphosed by degrees into a sinister appearing black man. They greet. But step back. At a distance sufficient for you to see the image whole, where does one homunculus end and the next begin? Like looking into yourself. Or into the world.
Celisa Steele’s poems in How Language is Lost embody the same perplexity. Look closely. Are these images sacred or profane? (There will never be a more arresting poem title than “Al Considers the Fucking Holy Spirit.”) Now step back. Read every poem. Just when you thought you sort of knew someone.
A subtle breath wends from line to line to line, an irresistable inhalation that brings all within – drunk with your face in the mashed potatoes, grieving as ice melts in the cup, alone and lost as a language, as an entire generation. Or grunting at the jab of an elbow in your ribs that demands you laugh. There you are. There I am. A fractal poetry in which the smallest detail expands to become the universe. Divine juxtaposition.
If everything is God, the only sin is in denying that God is everything.
. . . . .
The Jungle on the Back Patio
Today a sparrow, doubtless
a Yeatsian, builds her nest again
where yesterday I beat it down.
Last fall Besson bulldozed
the jungle at Calais. Hundreds
of undocumented migrants,
Pashtuns hoping to hop
a Dover-bound lorry, flew
before the announced razing.
Some stayed (most minors),
arrested in soft clouds of breath
just visible in the early morning.
This morning’s song – luculent
encomium of labor – lowers
the upturned broom in my hand.
No one wins. Not the bird,
not the French. Nothing changes
by an inch or an ounce, and I imagine
I will startle her to flitting frenzy,
send her to a nearby branch
each time I set foot on the patio.
Eggs, cool for too long, will
never hatch – the next generation
lost in a spindrift of pollen.
. . . . .