Portrait of a Stranger on a Train in a Dream
Your eyes are twin oceans the size of grapes. Your nose is a mountain
on verge of collapse. Your smile, a twisted branch of a gnarled tree.
Your laugh, the jingle of loose change in a pocket. Your tongue has
all the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. Your eyebrows contort to
question marks. Your ears are freshly baked cinnamon buns. Your right
scapula, the continent of Africa. Your calves are baby cows. Your thighs
are a phone ringing without answer. Your hair, a plate of spaghetti,
dyed red with tomato sauce. Your breasts are corrosive and properly
labeled to inform and deter. Your teeth are Chiclets. Your kidneys are
kidney beans. Your left scapula, sculptured by Michelangelo. Your spinal
column is Romanesque. Your lips, a palate of oil-based paint. Your
neck is a deep well of sorrow. Your voice, the sound of distant traffic.
Your shadow is the shadow of an oak tree without leaves. You are
perfect, just the way you aren't.
Michael e. Casteels poetry makes me feel he would be a most excellent quest at dinner parties for those times when the conversation was beginning to slag, or whenever words games requiring meanings and humour were called upon.
In this far too brief chapbook, The Robot Dreams, Casteels is simply wisely charming.
After dinner the dishes smash themselves against the wall. The remains
of the pork-roast oink and wriggle off the cutting board. The fork and
knife slip into the cutlery drawer, feigning cleanliness. The wine glasses
slosh and sway, one throws up. The white tablecloth rushes to the
laundry room. The chairs set themselves on fire with stubs of candles
left burning. The table shudders and collapses under the weight of
social pressures. The hostess dabs the corner of her mouth with a
lemon-scented serviette and smiles, as if everything is normal, which
These poems are filled with verve and energy and perhaps a little bit of Stuart Ross. For those of you who don't know who Stuart Ross is - he is the best poet you haven't heard of yet. For those of you who know who Ross is - you will understand what I mean when I say that Casteels embraces some of the same whimsy.
These shortish prose poems work like rides at the summer exhibition when all the carney's are in town. Quick blasts of speed and rapid changes of direction while wild music blares and bright lights flash. It's a pretty hard trick to pull off in a couple of lines and makes for very amusing stuff.
With over a dozen chapbooks to his credit Casteels has been busy. If the others are anywhere near as good as The Robot Dreams you should pick them up as soon as you see them.
I know I will.