Today's book of poetry: The Lease. Mathew Henderson. Coach House Press. Toronto, Ontario. 2012.
The first couple of weeks of this blog, I was writing about books from my own collection, books I had gone to bookstores and purchased. Since then I've been writing about books that a number of incredibly generous small presses from all across Canada have been sending me.
The Lease by Mathew Henderson did not arrive via Coach House Press but came to me through the Toronto poet and publisher Bardia Sinaee. Bardia is less than half my age and twice as smart as me which is a little irritating but he is a great friend if you love poetry. If Bardia wants me to read something, I'm in.
So, The Lease, by Mathew Henderson. Bardia was right, again. One of the cover blurbs by Linda Besner, author of The Id Kid, said this about Henderson's book:
The scale of Henderson's almost hallucinatory rendering of work in
Saskatchewan's oilfields is as small as the moths that circle the flares
and as cosmic as the industry's effects. The Lease crackles with
perfectly pitched alarm at what human dominion does to our
Everyone can tell that you're a virgin,
that when your shot came, you were too full
of rum to do anything but bully your dick
into a condom and watch it cower.
And when Rachel said, Fuck me, you didn't,
couldn't, but shucked the Trojan to the floor
of Brian's cottage where the girls would
find it later, make you go and pick it up.
They know all right. They see it in the way
you wrench, the way you tie your boots,
but they say nothing, hammering harder
and harder, sound off for you
the hundreds they've taken to bed.
Henderson is savagely honest and crystal clear with every stroke of his pen. These poems are beautiful and brutal.
You've long gone by now, but you hear
that there's a baby coming and flashback
to hugging her, chests together, hips apart.
The most you ever touched, but for a second
you wanted to fuck her; maybe wondered
more than wanted. You worry the kid
is yours; it seems like enough that you
stripped her down in your mind, down to
the desperate teen you thought you were
too good to want. It seemed real enough
to leave a kid behind. And there she is,
in this prairie house, away from anyone
who knows you both, and inside her
stomach, a flesh about to kick.
And it is feet and hands that grow in her,
or something as lustful and sad as empty
as its father and the way that it was made.
These poems are an eloquent valentine to the men who get dirt under their fingernails and the women who love and tolerate them.
These sad dramas make for joyously good poems at the deliberate and deft hands of Henderson.
Men lose their trucks in April, cave by May
and pump gas at ten an hour. The snow melts,
the earth soaks to mud too thick for rigs to move.
The sky is a leaky roof and they dream of catching
rain in buckets. Cocaine turns to codeine.
Cash bleeds out like a well. Their clothes stink,
they eat the dollar menu, bitch about road bans.
Some even go to Lakeside, work the killing floor,
shave beef from bodies hung on hooks and belts.
Run the gun. Avoid the eyes. The single-filed flesh
of thousands sluices through the grated floor.
All until the sun batters the earth to grit again.
Mathew Henderson has come out swinging and announced his presence on the Canadian literary scene with authority. These are fine, fine poems.