Strange, unsettling poem from a strange, unsettling -- and riveting -- book: "Retro Lullaby" from Never Be the Horse by Beckian Fritz Goldberg. (And it's a poem-match for this photograph! Sometimes the perfect poem just flutters to your finger like a lovesick homing pigeon.)
Here's an excerpt from "Retro Lullaby":
After all, my sister said I was a strange child, an
My mother said if they talked idly in February
of going somewhere in June, I'd wake in June,
my suitcase packed.
Terrible she said to have a child who never forgot a thing.
But now, of course, I've slipped
my mind forever in some infeasible way, flown
stiff as a toy in my dream altitude and I remember
wondering even in my elation if I'd drop
suddenly and if I did
I don't remember. But if I did, I'd say,
It's ok, you can be my angel. You can be
my human kite.
I relish the simile, "stiff as a toy in my dream altitude." Dream altitude! Later in the poem, Beckian Fritz Goldberg comes to the conclusion that "... childhood stinks big in our lives as death." In this case, the smell is of "moist hay," a scent that brings back the past, that inflates her "postcard of a little stranger," so that "her stupid white hands will come up like two / white pages from the bottom of a lake ...." It's magic the way a simple fragrance can transport us to the past, give us back our lace-trimmed ankle socks and braids.
One of my favorite pieces from the collection is the title poem, "Never Be the Horse," in which a mysterious horse is crossing the ocean, standing in a hull, trying "to dream on the smell of damp oatseed." The full line the title comes from is "Never be the horse God talks to." I love the final two lines: "Months later, a rock rose and then low furzy branches. / Then in each ankle a bell clapped for the mud."
How can you resist a book that contains poems with titles like "With a Ravenous Spike," "Flowering Adam," and "The Tongue of the Sphinx?"
Never Be the Horse won the 1998 Akron Poetry Prize and was published by The University of Akron Press in 1999. The photograph of the Renwal doll was taken 5/23/09 in my yard.
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