Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Pressed Against All That Nothing — Cody Deitz (Yak Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Pressed Against All That Nothing.  Cody Deitz.
Number One - Native Blossom Chapbook Series Two.  Yak Press.  Littlerock, California.  2015.

Poems by Cody Deitz

Take note, if Today's book of poetry gave out stars, today we would have to give them all to Cody Deitz.  Pressed Against All That Nothing is nothing short of extraordinary.  

Cody Deitz does a bunch of things in this marvelous book, but mostly Today's book of poetry thinks Deitz shows his brother true love and devotion.

These poems don't just "give sorrow words," as Maryse Holder would have said, they are both a vivid poetry accounting of harrowing personal losses, and a lovingly detailed account of the strength of a brother's love.  Deitz writes both about his brother's addictions and his incarceration but always from a loving and accepting terra firma.

Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia)

               for my brother, and R.G.

In the great expanse of sky
                                        and nothing,
we pass cigarettes back and forth:

the only holy incense we know,
timid offerings to the teenage gods of rebellion and getting lucky,

each sacramental stick carried
out into the desert—where else do sacraments belong?

Brothers, we share apathy,
exhaled through the nose,
                                 staining clothes and fingertips vanilla.

From the depths of our chests,
each streak of smoke flies off
like a pale crow.

I'm nostalgic for a past that doesn't exist
in a town that was never real,

and though it's still years to come,
                                                 and now, we're still in this together—

I can already see me getting out of this place and you standing alone
out in the Joshua trees, pressed against all that nothing.


Deitz never loses hope for the reappearance of his lost brother and he understands that this battle doesn't always have a victor.  The emotionally fraught landscape of these poems is one where the family of an addict endure, suffer, wait.  

The canvas Pressed Against All That Nothing appears on is mined with dangers both unseen and predicted.  And as much as Deitz fears his brother may never return from his abyss, Deitz never loses hope or faith.

Cody Deitz is one hell of a marksman because every single poem in Pressed Against All That Nothing hits the target right in its blood-red centre.  Today's book of poetry is here to tell you that Deitz is more than a fine marksman, he consistently hits targets that only moments ago were invisible.

Hindsight In Six Parts


July evening, mid-summer drought
                                      like always, and windy.

A red-tailed hawk updrafts foothills nearby,
                                                      just hunting for mice,

and you're not sober yet—the leaves wait to turn
and let gravity take them, the earth waiting—

But you haven't yet lost your sense of being alive, either,
                                                     the shudder and cringe of it,

as you wait again for a car to drive you into the night.

You have yet to be left in the desert

while mom and dad fly off—
the tired nest finally pulled out from under you.

Your room is still your own, a cluttered installation:
video games, tissue boxes, cheap watches that hold their breath—
                                            things not yet sold for Vicodin and rum.

The floor strewn with empty Marlboro packs,
                                                         their many tiny gaping mouths.

You have yet to be picked up in the night,
pulled from that red-eyed neighborhood,
                                              your freedom left on the roadside.

Your car emptied of plastic bottles, pinhead knot of resin,
glass pieces with bowls like small translucent moons:
                                         small catalog of municipal reckoning.

It will sit empty in the weeds for months,
mechanical ghost
              of your leaving.

You've yet to be bussed downtown
and left in Men's Central,

locked away for months in psychiatric,

        (How will you keep warm in that heat-sink,
          angry architecture?)

where you will freeze in your powerlessness,
its democratic pain.

The prison windows are tall, narrow eyes
                                             that look out into nothing.

You have yet to learn in rehab you've carried sickness for years,
an illegible letter, chicken-scratch diagnosis.

You haven't stood beneath the streetlight amber,
                                             watched the smoke rise

from the coffee-can ashtray, carcinogen bloom,

cigarette butts wrinkled petals wedged
into that strange bouquet nobody sent.

Now you stop your car on 65th street,
sleeping houses on one side,
                    tumbleweeds and dark on the other.

You load a bowl and look out, considering all that grows
                                                                  without sustenance:

Joshua trees and juniper amazingly green without a breath
of water for weeks, their heads tall and stoic in the desert chill—

you read once, of their root structures,
                         everything connected so nothing slips past.


Today's book of poetry has been behind the wheel of car for six of the last seven days and still feels the wind whipping past.  As a result, we aren't moving very much, or very quickly, today.  But Today's book of poetry was so taken by Deitz's Pressed Against All That Nothing that today's office reading was a solo shot.  The entire staff sat stone silent while I whipped through Pressed Against All That Nothing as though it were something of my own creation.  I should be so lucky.

These poems felt so tight I could barely get the pages apart.  These poems were so ripped with magic Today's book of poetry didn't know whether to spit or wind my watch, they just worked.  Cody Deitz is in Master Chef territory, he's so good in the poetry kitchen you can smell his burn from every direction.

Habit Of The World

          Don't take it personal, they said;
          but I did, I took it all quite personal
                        -Tony Hoagland

The jacaranda tree at the end of my street
has been losing itself all week,

dropping its amethyst and lavender
all over the sidewalk, while spring burns off like fog
                                       and the sky looks blue and determined.

It's easy to take it personal—this undermining of permanence,
                                                                   this habit of the world.


Cody Deitz gives his brother every opportunity to come home again but as Thomas the Wolfe so aptly told us, you can never do that again.  

Today's book of poetry fell in love with how far Deitz was willing to go in his brother's name.  As it turns out Deitz is willing to go as far as it takes, these poems are a full-fledged love song to his flawed and beautiful sibling.

Deitz knows that being straight is a good thing but it is not the only thing.  Some of us have other dreams.

Image result for cody deitz photo

Cody Deitz

Cody Deitz, a California native, now resides in North Dakota where he is pursuing his PhD. in English at the University of North Dakota. He is fascinated with poetry of place, and how geography informs individual experience, seeking in his work to explore this connection and the insights it affords.

Cody Deitz understands something about interiority—that ‘the subconscious is always a terrain’—and he fluidly moves between the psychic space of the shared dark and that brighter horizon where ‘the sun becomes the symbol it always wanted to be, / that slippery metaphor for god, shooting into the well’s eye.’ These are poems of addiction, recovery, fraternal love, and a Ginsberg-like faith that there is salvation in poetry. The genius of Cody Deitz is in his intimate, meditative act of witness, far-seeing yet detailed. He offers an undeniably unifying force of human spirit where we learn the pain and possibility of ‘unmaking. . .the terrible.’ Like the ‘steel refrigerator / with its cord buried in dirt,’ these poems, too, seem ‘plugged. . .into the world.’ ”
     ~ Leilani Hall, author of Swimming the Witch  

“Cody Deitz’s collection documents a brother’s disappearance into addiction, a black hole around which the family spins. After stints in prison, psych care, and rehab, he reemerges barely recognizable — a figure that, like Zeno’s paradox, the speaker can never fully reach, ‘the idea of progress // suddenly unfathomable.’ These events are embodied and presented in vivid, resonant details: Joshua trees, shoe prints in desert sand, the mouths of empty Marlboro packs, the crackle of a prison telephone. In his precise and yet discursive verse, Deitz’s poetic attention is ‘More than turning on a light—it’s becoming // the bulb and the switch and the finger. . .’ ”
     ~ Heidi Czerwiec, author of Self-Portrait as Bettie Page and A is for A-ké, The Chinese Monster 

“Cody Deitz’ work is a live wire snaking over the asphalt of lyrical poetry, though the hum of his words never rises above the electric din: instead, it is the reader who reverberates with recognition in the mechanical ghost Deitz creates out of his stark architecture. The invisible cord of his words will become a nightlight in a forever-darkening sky, will conduct electricity against this fleeting urban solitude. His poetry is a voice that both reassures from the hallway and echoes back to you in a strange rhythm, as you lay safe and pressed against all that nothing.”
     ~ Gina Alexandra, MFA candidate, UCSD

Cody Deitz
reads from
Pressed Against All That Nothing
Video:  YakPress



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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