Monday, December 20, 2010

"Dear Michael (2)" by Mark McMorris

I heard Mark McMorris read at Split This Rock 2010, and I'm struck by the way in which the recent wars filter into his new book, Entrepot, from Coffee House Press.  Coffee House Press has made a real mark in contemporary poetry with excellent recent books by Mark Nowak, Ange Mlinko, and Julie Carr, among others, with a vision of social engagement and philosophical nuance.  McMorris' poem reminds me at once of contemporary poststructural theories of language (where language is, to quote Robert Hass, elegy to the thing it signifies) and the tradition of war poetry, in which the poet attempts to sing the unsingable, to speak the unspeakable of war.  I believe there's a hint of Dickinson here, as well, "Success is counted sweetest."
"Dear Michael (2)"  by Mark McMorris

The wound cannot close; language is a formal exit
is what exits from the wound it documents.
The wound is deaf to what it makes; is deaf
to exit and to all, and that is its durable self,
to be a mayhem that torments a city. The sound
comes first and then the word like a wave
lightning and then thunder, a glance then a kiss
follows and destroys the footprint, mark of the source.
It is the source that makes the wound, the wound
that makes a poem. It is defeat that makes
a poem sing of the light and that means to sing
for a while. The soldier leans on his spear.
He sings a song of leaning; he leans on a wound
to sing of other things. Names appear on a page
gentian weeds that talk to gentian words, oral
to local, song talk to sing (Singh), and so
he goes on with the leaning and the talking.
The wound lets him take a breath for a little
because it is a cycle of sorts, a system or a wheel
a circle that becomes a wheel and is not a sound
at all, the idea of a sound and the sound again
of an idea that follows so close; say light
and then is there light or a wound, an idea of being
itself in the thing sound cancels. Is there ever a spear
a soldier that leans in, a song that he sings
waiting for a battle? This soldier is only a doorway.
Say that book is a door. I say the soldier
and the local, the word and the weed, the light
and the kiss make a mayhem and a meeting.
So then that the voice may traverse a field
it transmits the soldier on a causeway to the city
leaning on a spear and talking, just after the wound opens
that never creaks and closes, and has no final page.

Mark McMorris
Coffee House Press


Herbívora no practicante said...

I had never read your blog and came accross it while doing a search on seamus heaney's poem cure at troy. i am a young legal scholar taking a critical approach to legal discourses (and ensuing strategies) about war and transitional justice and found this poem tremendously relevant for my work. i hope to come bak to your blog many times in the future.

Philip Metres said...

Glad that you found something of use here!