Today's book of poetry: Bizarre Winery Tragedy. Lyle Neff. Anvil Press. Vancouver, British Columbia. 2005.
Lyle Neff's Bizarre Winery Tragedy is a breath of fresh air, a cleaning of the cobwebs that clutter the closet of your brain. These short poems are precise, clear and on target. Although some see Neff as the owner of the big rant I thought these poems were tempered with wit and wisdom and the occasional wet Willy in the ear. If Neff were taking target practice - he'd be shooting ducks in a barrel.
How Did You Feel?
Like a chaotic small terrorist
operation, was how she'd felt.
One faction was all fiery, fired up
with dynamite. They had briefly
got the upper hand and round
A shotglass went her fire-orange fingernails.
Couple of great leaders passed through
the bed. Then came to power the jittery faction,
With a jittery power, wrenched ideals,
drinking coffee. The sects in fact screeched
to and fro till they all blew up
in a work accident. Which explains,
She says, her hair and how brutally
she's aged. She thinks a man's life
is such an enviable ride.
"You should be an admiral, honey,"
she says, "a smoothie with no friction,
smart sailor of the prevailing tide."
Neffs sets them up and knocks them down. These poems work like quick little movies, short narratives, big results. Time and again I found myself nodding in agreement at the end of a poem, nodding and smiling.
That Moody Bastard
Likes to sit near beach statuary, is amiable,
has stubble like an old old man, sometimes
feels that what he's saying is repulsive
or that he's repulsed by what he's said.
Makes a violent gesture, a pigeon flock
naturally explodes just then. You could die,
laughing, poor guy in his pea coat
of despair, his ethical self-loathing,
How hard done by he's really been, how
he's barely survived. Let's give
the moody bastard a hi-test to celebrate
how low in the water the coal freighters run,
How the flock congregates again
around his cheap spotless half-laced runners.
You can't see it coming. How cement breaks up
As roots bust its back, all through your childhood years.
You can't see bright days coming, nor all the accidents,
Nor blacknesses that make flares into shadows.
Though you can hear the gunpowder hiss in flares,
Penumbra of sibilant points mapped around you.
Navigating, navigator. Navigator, rise up
And be strong: blindnesses ending, work to be done.
It started with the first poem in this collection and the rollicking ride never slowed down or let up. Lyle Neff's Bizarre Winery Tragedy was such an enjoyable and entertaining read that as soon as I type this all out, post it on the blog - I'm going to read it all over again.
Never used to get so sick so often.
This grey stubble in patches is also new.
Baby puts his arms around my neck now,
scrambles up me,
anxious about the belly-high sea, my
pale scrabbly ant, handsome as the foamy surf.
The harder his white arms clutch,
the wider death gets. It flies scythely
widescreen at us. I'm not ageless, and
someday he'll die too. I'm revolted by his
death loitering here; I lift him; you can't have him,
it's repulsive. You too were a child once
and still death'll kill you,
I was a child once and shall still get
killed by death, the last trustworthy day
was what? Generations ago?