Eating Poetry (XLII) – Sunder

by A. Jay Adler on December 15, 2012
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I just turned in my “Poetic License” column for the upcoming spring issue of West. It’s topic is poetic voice. An extraordinary poetic voice is that of Atsuro Riley, featured here once before, just a short while ago. One is instantly aware of the the uniqueness of his voice. It diminishes that uniqueness not at all – the poeticized rural Southern diction – to remark on the reminiscence in the voice, in its clipped, energized rhythms and inventive syntactical arrangements, of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Note the opening “A last rock-skip hurlstorm” and the “In right lockstitch/ snared and split.” Note Riley’s delay of the verb and adverb until the end of a clause:

By dawn the older brother took to chucking
what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across

and again,

Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.

As always, there is the coiled emotive power.

Sunder
by Atsuro Riley

A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)

the closest they ever were.

In right lockstitch

snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.

By dawn the older brother took to chucking

what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.

The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters

with a yowl.

Lord the sound such as rose from him

carried so—

Carved

into us. Clings.

Hadn’t they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.

—Came a man (and truck) to take them off.

Dieseled those boys off

away

some say somewheres upcountry,

inland.

Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.

No body not them knows

just how they humped and grubbled home

what road they’d graved what woods criss-crossed

which creeks which trains they’d hopped who helped.

Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.

Came safe home       —as him  —and him.

—as (evermore) not them.

Source: Poetry (April 2011).

 

 

 

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