Monday, December 30, 2013

A Pretty Sight - David O'Meara

Today's book of poetry:  A Pretty Sight.  David O'Meara.  Coach House Books.  Toronto, Ontario.  2013.

I was lucky enough to be at the Ottawa launch of David O'Meara's A Pretty Sight.  His reading that night a Socratic howl and punk song with finger puppets.

Of course I bought his book.  And like the fan I am, got it signed.  Got the puppets signed as well.

But by buying David's book I disqualified it from my blog because I don't write about books I purchase.  There you go.  One of my favourite poets, a writer I've long believed is one of the best in the country.  

Luckily, a few weeks later, Coach House Books sent one in the mail.  They sent along the finger puppets as well.

'In Event of Moon Disaster'
              —William Safire (July 1969)

After Borman,
NASA's liaison, calls
and urges 'some alternative posture'

should things go south — unforeseen glitch,
miscalculation,
technical whatever — leaving

Armstrong and Aldrin
stranded on the moon,
does Safire walk or run

to the Oval Office?
The president's aides rustle
around the furniture, their minds

touchy and tentative
like bees
in a cactus patch.

You can imagine Dick's face
when advised: cut all
communications, commend

their souls to 'the deepest
of the deep,' like a burial at sea.
Then call their wives.

As for text, it's left
to Safire
to get the spirit right. Christ,

this will be either
the speech of his life or words
that are never uttered.

Though he's no pacer, there
he goes on Penn Ave., ditching
the ride to a deli

with the government driver,
insisting he'll take
the few last blocks on foot.

He wants the air
of a summer night and an uncluttered sense
of the quotidian.

The stars might pull at time
like taffy out there, exhaling light,
but it's reassuring to know

that in the suburbs
someone's washing dishes, a curtain
is lifted by a breeze

and surely there's a midget team
looking for a homer under bug-infested
ballpark lights.

At the meat counter, he watches
them shave a sheaf
of pastrami onto the waxed sheet, pop

bread and mini paks
of mustard into paper sacks,
provisions

for what's going to be
an all-nighter in a toe-to-toe
with the typewriter.

If only he could peel
back the top of his head
to reveal slick words laid neatly

and glistening like that
cache of silver found
when a sardine key gets twisted round.

But all he can see
are two dead astronauts
canned in welded metal,

their ingress above the module's ladder
like Jacob's climb to heaven
and everything a question of how

anyone would spend their last few hours.
Would you stay inside, waiting till
the oxygen goes critical, tapping

the dead switch for the ascent engine
in a lonely Morse? Or, rather,
pull an Oates, and wander out into the cold

for one last stroll,
the whirling white like tickertape.
Safire slows

at the thought of it. All night
he'll haunt his office, taunted
by shades of scenario,

the moon's milky glow
hung in its pure potential,
stalled like those satellites of paper

balled up into the waste,
the future an empty shape
still left to fill with explanation.

...

O'Meara's is simply a voice I want to listen to.  

Henry Moore, Socrates, Sid Vicious and others come out to play as they bounce around and through A Pretty Sight.  O'Meara has an air of certainty, an astute voice.  He could wax eloquent and educated about the phone book and the results would be entertaining and enlightening.

Spoiler Alert

Wood warps.
Glass cracks.

The whole estate
goes for a song.

The cardboard
we used

to box up the sun
didn't last long.

...

Ha.  

David O'Meara makes me laugh, makes me pay attention.  When David O'Meara speaks other poets listen.  In four short volumes O'Meara has become an essential Canadian voice and it would seem like he's just warming up.

'There's Where the American Helicopters Landed'

Sixtyish, wrinkled, Ling Quang's hard look
lifts from the gravel where we've stopped,
the Honda's kickstand staked
to the road's thin shoulder,
our helmets laid like eggs on the leather seat.
He points at the place
near the silk factory where
the craters are almost overgrown,
green tangles scanned
through his knock-off Ray-Bans.

On the bike, I forget to lean
through curves, tires
eating the steep grade back to town,
past the bridge again
where a man stands fishing,
nylon net like a smudge of mist
that skims his catch from the creek
their fins struggling in the killing air.

...

A Pretty Sight is as engaging a read as you'll find in the poetry section.  

And finger puppets.




David O'Meara reads his poem Dawn Taxi, from the book The Vicinity,  at the Manx Pub




www.chbooks.com