endless rebirthnails and teethorgans flesh and bonedusk reverie rabbit then deerhard substance of body, the earthsweat bile and bloodtears fat and mucusjellyfishfluids, waterbody mechanisms firephysical warmth, agingfireflies at nightthe scattering sparksbreathingin the bellythe crepuscular crowenergy, movementpink light on black pavementwhen the body’s fire dissolves into windthin paper’s fragilityskin coolsmouth nostrils and earsthe rhythm circles, repeatsfrom the feet upward to the heartthe dissolution of elementsbeyond the physical body’s slow ring
In her third trade poetry collection, the last will be stone, too (Ithica, NY: Stockport Flats, 2013), Hudson Valley poet Deborah Poe composes a study of death in four sections: people, place, animal and ghost. Originally produced as four chapbooks as part of the dusie kollektiv #5, part of the strength of this collection is in how the multiple voices come through the text, from one piece of fading text across bold, from a series of italicized choruses and a poem in binary, or in more subtle ways, wrapped underneath and across straighter lines. Through composing lines in italics, it is as though Poe has composed a poem within the poem, commenting on the main line of the piece and responding to it. Even the preface, the poem “death mix” (called “tract” in the table of contents), is entirely chorus, written nearly as a kind of foreshadowing, writing:
stone, wherever you look, stonein the passages, passageslet the grey animal inO one, o none o no one, o you
As Poe writes to open her lengthy “notes” at the end of the collection, “The title of this collection is based on a quote from Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope against Hope (Athneum Publishers 1970): Once, resting by the pile of rocks, [Osip] said, ‘My first book was Stone, and my last will be stone, too’ (399, emphasis mine).” In a second collection composed as a “last book,” Poe uses erasure, lyric, ekphrasis, lists and the prose-poem in a collage of forms, each reaching toward some kind of unknowing, writing the conflict between comprehension and the impossibility of what might come, and the foreshadowing of death, the great equalizer. Throughout the collection, she weaves references to how the ancient Egyptians saw death to more than a couple of quotes from Nadezhda Mandelstam and other cultural counterpoints, each exploring death towards an accumulation of lyric on the subject, presented as a book-length essay-poem. As anyone knows, any book about death can’t help but be also a book about life, as one can’t exist without the tension of the other. In the hands of Deborah Poe, the last will be stone, too is a poem tightrope-taut.
le passageNo one asked if Magritte’s bowler-hatted homme was autobiographical. This is not a dream; it’s a vision. Past the sign, the significance. Winter sky. She doesn’t face you because she steadies an end. Cloth wrapped around her lower half, she hunches. The way forward is precarious. A body worn thin. She confronts dead sky. Flat panels—space between ground. Broken earth ocean. You come to nude body. Beauty is convenient. A set jaw line signals a smile. She’s gone spine. Shadows on twisted stairs rise behind. She has said all she has to say. All there is to do now is scream.