Take This Stallion. Anais Duplan. Brooklyn Arts Press. Brooklyn, New York. 2016.
Anais Duplan has a big voice and Take This Stallion is loud. Duplan is marvellously excessive in her exasperations, take this title: "An Account Of A Child Born Alive Without A Brain And The Observables In It Upon Dissection."
Duplan would also have us believe that her dog is God. Today's book of poetry followed along with rapt and somewhat nervous attention.
A Fledgling Is A Young Bird
That Has Its Feathers
And Is Learning To Fly
I, on the other hand,
make sure to wash my mouth
whenever I say something slippery. I am washing
right now, ma cherie, with a pen
in my left hand and my page on the rim of the sink
and my right hand is reaching toward you,
you in the mirror, to pull your hair out.
The terror of having to realize the unrealizable: I am a baby
on the kitchen counter, one of many. My mother continues
to unload us from a crate. The counter is littered with knives.
No one is hurt except all of us are hurt and yearning
to sleep. It is cold. Keep this in mind, it is cold.
My mother, the woman, she is wearing a chain
of children's molars. A man wearing the same chain
appears in the doorway and begins to eat us one by one.
My mother in a blue apron. It is springtime inside
and outside the kitchen. I hear the dog screech from the yard,
his "body" is caught under the lawnmower
my father is driving. I tell my mother to get off
the machine, to let this one live, but he doesn't listen,
he takes off his apron and steps outside,
sees the dog screeching and by now, it is still springtime.
You are in control. The day is yellow
in the sense that the grasses are dying. There are animals
dying every minute, waiting, even after their deaths,
to be adopted. Pick up the phone. Pick up the baby
and set it in a meadow. Wait for a bird to settle
on its head and take a photo. Mail the photo to your mother.
Write to her, write, Just this once, just this once,
would you please come to my recital. I promise I will do better
than Jenny. Take the baby back into your hands
and promise me.
What makes us go all the way to the bottom. The brother had severed
one of his fingers attempting to slice a fig. The mother took him
to the emergency room but only the brother returned. Since then,
I have had to be the woman of the house. I am proud to say
that the brother's fingers have grown six inches since I took over and the father
is very well near portly. I promise to fill them up. I say this every time
I pass the emergency room on the way to bed.
At least we have our authenticity. This is the last time
I'll ever lend my skin to a man who tells me he'll give it
right back. Keep this in mind: it is cold and my eyes
are too bloated for my head. I have had to squeeze them dry
at day's end. I do this in the bathroom, where a lady is safe
to take her apron off and her eyes out.
I say to Michael, I say, Michael,
why don't you go out and find yourself a woman. I say,
Michael, any lady would be lucky to let you have her. I say, Take
this cake and take it into your arms and find a woman.
You are in control. Take this stallion and ride it
to your demise. (Read: the sunset, behind the stars,
the green green garden.) Compare my flesh to yours. Look at my hair:
my neck hair and my toe hair. (Read: I am a woman and a woman
is a woman.) My unconscious is under siege,
Papa Bear. Take up your arms
and throw them around me. Bring a bouquet,
bring your big cowboy hat. Show me how to kill a horse.
It's clear Anais Duplan is comfortable going all back-beat to the regular rhythms of things but this doesn't stop her from finding a big, deep groove. Take This Stallion isn't an easy get - the reader has to take a minute to find firm footing because this is surprisingly new ground. Anais Duplan is teaching us her new vernacular and it is splendid.
Why Would You Ever Go
To A Pool Party Anway
Anais, you needn't cry
like a baby seal. You needn't wear
your hair long, just to divert
the passing sailors--
O what flag waves outside the windows
of all fledgling girls
when they detect
between their legs.
John Paul once said to me,
O Anais, o Anais, what lives between your legs,
and I opened up to him, put his hand inside me
and said, This is the fiery throat of God -- be careful.
You may find you are no longer every-
thing you had been
before you arrived.
He said, she said, we wrote of a great awakening.
Instead of death we only moaned
every time the sun did wane and how
it waned every morning. Today could be
the day that does not end
in your death-
A lot of fun at this morning's read. Take This Stallion lent itself to a dramatic show.
Not sure how Anais Duplan has done it but Take This Stallion feels like a strange familiar. I know I have never been here before and some of the language is foreign but these poems ring the ears off of my inner reader. I'm happy/sated, deja-vued and curious for more.
I Felt Like A Traffic Light
As Soon As I Got Inside You
This is how to be honest:
I learned it on the subway: look
me in the eyes and tell me
I'm not beautiful. Sometimes
it's best just to drop out tune down
let go so ever so deep. So deep
was her throat and how the gods
did sing, how the dog doth sing,
Happy birthday, darling. And thank you, too.
I met a girl named Martha
with eyes as big as Arizona,
relative to other states.
Martha, I promise to change
your bandages forever 'n'ever,
and if the doctors should ever say,
O Anais, Martha will not survive
without your limbs, I would
tear them off one-by-one.
Lift me up --
I am looking at the neighbor's wife,
I am looking at the neighbor's wife
and wond'ring where she buys her things.
Lower me down, just below your eye-
level and tell me about the time
your mother made you wear clothes you didn't want to wear.
Never forget to greet the doctor in the room,
I know it was your birthday but I never got
the prescription you wrote me.
Dancing is not permitted in certain towns and that's ok
for some. Don't stop get it get it get it get it get it get it
before it gets you.
As soon as you walked into the room
all the flowers said O hell yes.
My life is a ballad, it goes: O
ooooo! I can't breathe
when you hold me so
cold. Get paid get paid
tomorrow. Wake up get
paid tomorrow. You deserve
everything you get.
You don't know nothing and you never did, silly bill.
I don't have a gun but maybe one day I will.
It can't just be me. There are a strokes worth of vicarious thrills both carnal and poetic in this rambunctious first book of poems. Today's book of poetry will happily champion Take This Stallion until Anais Duplan gives us some more sugar.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAnaïs Duplan was born in Jacmel, Haiti. She is the director of a performance collective called The Spacesuits and of The Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program in Iowa City. Her poems and essays have appeared in Birdfeast, Hyperallergic, The Journal, [PANK], and other publications. She is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
BLURBS“I have never before read a book like Anaïs Duplan’s Take This Stallion. Her major talent is recognizing the self in the other, making for poems that flow forward in a tone of oneness—is oneness a tone?—poems that make evident an ever-expanding world by opening themselves up into that world. This debut does what poets in their fifth or sixth collections are still trying to figure: it balances the intellect, image, music, and emotion in ways so unfamiliar that a blurb couldn’t possible characterize the work.”
- Jericho Brown
“For all the ways we pad our language with qualifier, with apology, with hedge, Anaïs Duplan is antidote. Her poems are talkative, inappropriate, obsessive, and sexy. They put everything on the table and if there’s no table, she erects one: of the mechanic’s lobby, of men selling peanuts at her door, of the George Washington Bridge underpass, of the ocean. Sometimes the poems hang the air with obsession like tangential rope. like snake. Sometimes they pick up their skirts and dust the ground. Duplan’s work is at once this methodical, and this unhinged. She confirms a fear that drones and Kim Kardashian have more to do with our therapy sessions than we wish. And then at times, she puts all that away, and the poems wash out their mouths. This first collection is, after all, of this world. And though it might be haunted by a voice that says “Don’t be too cocky,” on nearly every page it talks back. Heroic, inspired, and smart: these poems are on their own two feet, saying “I’m always cocky.””
- francine j. harris
“Take This Stallion is the sound of a generation finding its voice; it is a sound of a generation that has more rapidly than any since the generation that came of age in the 1960’s turned the world on its head, both exposing the faithlessness of the generations before it, and reifying the promises those generations made. Listen: “When she was lost to them/ they took to striking/ each other over the head with empty fists,/ striking until blood ran freely in the city/ ditches. All of this sounding like horses thundering/ into each other, peeling themselves/ off of each other, and thundering/ again. The whole city, this sound.”In Take This Stallion, the whole city is made new, and the maker who re-makes it is new, and the songs they sing as they work are the new songs.”
- Shane McCrae
Anais Duplan at SPECTRA
Video: Therese Guise
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