Transform

Issue #3

Spring 2011

Table of Contents

3 Letter from the Editor

4 Contributors

5 Events

6 Poetry – “Museum” by Edwina Attlee

7 Poetry – “Valentine” by Edwina Attlee

9 Poetry – “Barnacle” by Edwina Attlee

10 Poetry – “Molting” by Jacqueline Simonovich

13 Poetry – “A Flower is a Fox in a Hole,” “Echoes,” and “Spermicidal” by Howie Good

14 Review – “The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta” by Hubert O’Hearn

17 Fiction – “Quarry Swimming” by Hillary Walker

19 Poetry – “Hand Mirror” and “Painting” by Chizuco Shophia Yw

20 Nonfiction – “Becoming a Nielsen Family” by Jane Elias

26 Poetry – “Lie Again Tomorrow” by Rigby Bendele

27 Fiction

47 Review – “Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier” by Hubert O’Hearn

 

Letter from the Editor

Dear Reader,

This is where I write something nice about how exciting it is to be introducing the third issue and what an eventful winter it was for our little corner of the literary world, and something about what literature and the literary world, the literary life, means to all of us, and either a more professional picture of myself or just a photograph that is representative of the season without being too self-centered (something of New York City like sun shining on the East River, but nothing that implies the way this picture is is the way the world is because this is the only world that matters, because it isn’t), and then I’ll write something meant to be inspiring about writing or art or what trans- means and what transform is supposed to mean, something about changing structure or moving beyond form, changing in appearance without changing in value, radical alteration, and we’ll watch the flowers bloom, and then we’ll see how that works out.  Warmest,

– Christina Phelps

 

Contributors

Edwina Attlee is in her first year of a PhD with the London Consortium.  She is writing about space and the city.  She has had work published in Poetry and Audience and writes for Kicking Against the Pricks.

Rigby Bendele is a second-year student at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.  Her pieces have appeared in Rough Copy and The Battered Suitcase, and she currently has a poem forthcoming in The Prose-Poem Project.

Jane Elias lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.  Her poetry has appeared in PodiumThe Southampton Review, and Washington Square. She holds a BA in English from Duke and an MFA in creative writing from NYU.

Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the full-length poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), and Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011), as well as numerous chapbooks.

Hubert O’Hearn twice held the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft before the cameras, until the security guard watching the cameras told him to please put that down, sir, or we’ll have you arrested. He then turned to book and arts reviewing for Canadian newspapers. No one has made him put down a book since he was ten years old and his Mum said, for God’s sake, turn out the lights and get some sleep. Besides reviewing he has also been a successful playwright, actor, and theatre director particularly enjoying his interpretations of Anton Chekhov and Noel Coward. His literary heroes include Graham Greene, Groucho Marx, and Mordecai Richler.  To read more of Hubert O’Hearn’sreviews, you’re welcome to visit bythebookreviews.blogspot.com.  Come on in. Stay a while. He may make snacks.

Jacqueline Simonovich is finishing her degree at the Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program at NYU. She lives in Princeton, NJ with her husbanad and her two cats, whom she is mildly obsessed with. She enjoys thinking about the gendering of language and the role of the mother in contemporary society.

Elizabeth Tenenbaum is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She is thankful for the transformation of the dark cold season to the long warm days of summer so that she can draw and paint in Prospect Park. Elizabeth is a collection manager for major private art collections and co-founder of InContext Tours, a small venture taking collectors and art enthusiasts inside artists’ studios all over NYC. The work on paper in this issue comes from her current series entitled “Natural Disasters, Catastrophes and Heart Break.”

Hillary Walker studies English and astrophysics at Williams College and hopes to pursue a career in fiction, literary theory, and psychoanalysis following her graduation this spring.  She really likes going out for breakfast.

Chizuco Sophia Yw is an award-winning visual artist based in New York. Chizuco began her career in Japan in 1991 as a representative artist. In 2000 she moved to New York to study abstract paintings.

During her residency in Beijing, China, in 2009, Chizuco developed her “Consciousness-only” work theory which is based on the purity and energy of life. In her drawings and paintings, Chizuco creates imaginary worlds from memory and experience using a variety of media, including glass pen and brush, charcoal, colored pencil, oil, watercolor and acrylic on paper or canvas.

Chizuco is the recipient of both the grand prize from ArtNetwork and the Director’s Recognition Award from Period Gallery. She has exhibited nationally and internationally at Lincoln Center (New York), Silvermine Guild Arts Center (Connecticut), Bertoni Gallery (New York), Period Gallery (Nebraska), The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (Japan) and Shoko-ji temple (Japan). Chizoco’s works are also in the permanent collection of the Shoko-ji temple and Osaka Medical Center as well as in many private collections.   Her studio located at 340 Morgan Ave, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11211.

 

Events

3.21.2011 – trans lit mag begins transmitting issue #3, “transform.”

 

Poetry

Museum

by Edwina Attlee

I put my legs in the water

They hang like hams in the larder,

Cool and gargantuan.

In this heat

I am held suspended

Like a specimen in a jar

Or a bunch of yellow peppers.

You have put me on the shelf

And all I can hear

Is the sound of blood in my ears

As heavy as dumb bells.

Poetry

Valentine

by Edwina Attlee

Morning scores along the edges of the day

Like a tin opener on a can of sardines.

Your kiss on my lips is sweet with cider

And the sea-salt of sleep.

I am bevelled for you, parched.

With a line of question marks,

Shakily drawn with your morning hand of tremor

You rescue my whole world.

We walk together,

There is nothing but the artichoke stroke of your skin on mine.

The warmth of you is my

Eye, my smile, my sigh.

I am as happy as a tuna fish in brine,

drunk, cosy, packed flat, I am fine.

 

Poetry

Barnacle

by Edwina Attlee

The word speaks of limpets, steadfast brickwork, implacable against sea currents, against storms, against file and hammer, against knife, against boot. As I first heard it I felt my hands against grain, cheese grater jagged and rough. The word sounded in my palm, forced it open and grazed me.

She said it by the shop front, reflecting in the mirror of the glass, as the ribbons of meat hung down from their hooks. Her whole name.She’d told me it all in one, as frank as the brushing down of an apron, smoothing it down against the wind, flattening the white, pushing away the wrinkles.

And then she turned back to look at the sky, at the black birds flying across the blue and then again across the windows, refracted and scattered among the painted letters. All the colours of the world seemed very fine, bright reds and whites and blues and gold all sun bleached and certain.

The world set upon a slope, down to the sea front, tumbling. And I, king of the pavement, scanned the horizon and laughed and took her hand. The air was gelid and tanged at my nose hairs, bitter and potent. The salt and the red flesh, the rabbits newly hung.

As she tipped her head back to laugh I could see the blackness of her nostrils, and the stretch of her neck. As white and freckled as a pebble. I imagined my hands were creeping upon it as the scrape of tide along the shore, forward and back again, rapid wet black and creeping drying tan.

We walked with the concrete under our black clod feet and talked without looking at one another. I was glad to watch the steadying shops and street signs go past, holding onto them as firmly as I could as she laughed again and again and slipped occasionally in her uneven heels.

If I could just catch the billow of one of her skirts, purple narcissi against the sky, inky sprout, parachute. If I could fall into the pail of that inside out umbrella, would I be closer to her than I am now? Would I furrow with my hands to the blind veins of the bulb? Would I find her there?

Or would I be swept under water as the boat capsizes, churned and choked, guttered. Would I gulp to the surface to find a pair of clean hands sawing at the surface in earnest, prizing away with bloody hands one and then another barnacle, and throwing them all to the sea.

Poetry

Molting

by Jacqueline Simonovich

This morning

I shed you like a second skin

like the snakeskin

the boys at the daycare

used to run back

to show you

“Miss Cheryl, Miss Cheryl”

Miss Steinbock said

that in the Fall

the leaves would gather

so thick

they would be like cornflakes

beneath our feet

I always waited for that moment

like a snowfall

when even the fields would be covered

and each step

would be like wading

We pass around

this discarded skin

but it is too delicate

and begins to disintegrate

I can still see the impression of the scales

on that surface

more than paper-thin

as it rubs onto my thumb

When I moved out

you gave me my Great-grandmother’s

mixing bowls

that fit inside one another

I had never seen you use them

You always used those

cheap, aluminum bowls

that were so warped

we could never quite

fit them back together

You brought them up from the basement

“These are nice bowls”

Why were they too nice for you?

They are nice bowls

Alternating

pink and white

They feel solid

between my hands

indestructible

I have always collected small things

When I was cleaning out my room

I found the snail shell

Did I ever show you that?

A perfect spiral shell

when I opened the drawer

it had become two

the outer layer

peeled away

creating an exact

translucent

copy

I still have both

When snakes discard their old skin

they do so

because they know it will grow back

that perfect outer layer

snagged on a branch

in a rock crevice

unnecessary remnants

This morning I shed you

like a second skin

I stand ankle-deep in soapy water

as if I could wash it all way

The thing about snakes is

they know it will grow back

I shave away my scales

and there is blood running down my leg

it drips off my foot into the water

I held my arms up to face

as blood began to run onto my wrists

You gave me a tissue to wipe it away

I didn’t stop it

You didn’t stop it

Well you did

but only later

when I looked at you

in the car that day

you handed me a tissue

and I wiped it all away

 

Poetry

by Howie Good

A Flower is a Fox in a Hole

I crash a half-empty auditorium of G-men, my pockets stuffed with incandescent ampules of evidence, while you slowly circle the mall parking lot, looking for a close-in space. We’re the ghosts of our own thoughts – or, no, a character in each other’s stories. All things move toward becoming one thing, a bright red wound that seems to you shimmering blue. Some small and unsuspecting leaf goes whirling down the creek.

Echoes

Potential orphans

pass us

on the stairs.

You dread

the cough

of a stranger.

At the track

your horse

stumbles.

We’re far

from the ocean,

but I rub

your breasts,

beautiful

racketeers

with involuntary

dark haloes.

Spermicidal

1

We’re the ghosts of our own thoughts – or, no, a character in each other’s stories. All things move toward becoming one thing, a bright red wound that seems to you shimmering blue. Some small and unsuspecting leaf goes whirling down the creek.

2

Potential orphans pass us on the stairs. You dread the cough of a stranger. At the track your horse stumbles. We’re far from the ocean. I rub your breasts, beautiful racketeers with involuntary dark haloes.

3

I ask if you remember the story headlined FIRE. You slowly circle the parking lot again, searching for a close-in spot. I watch a bird that looks like the bird that picks the crocodile’s teeth.

 

Review

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta (Harper Collins, 2011)

by Hubert O’Hearn

With the publication of The Quiet Twin, Dan Vyleta has assumed the mantle as the master of the atmospheric thriller.  Indeed, I believe he is the direct descendant of a line that starts with Edgar Allen Poe, runs through Franz Kafka, and became fully-formed as a popular literary entertainment with Graham Greene.  These are strong names to toss out there for a young Canadian immigrant’s second book.  His talent and perceptions are of those great men’s quality, at equivalent stages of their careers.

        The Quiet Twin is set in Vienna in early 1940.  At this time, the war is going well for the Axis Powers, so it is very much a distant sound in the background of the novel.  What is front and centre is an atmosphere of distrust, mistrust, edge, and fear.  Brilliantly plotted, Vyleta’s story constantly tinkers with the reader’s expectations.  There are actual case studies of twisted grand guignol atrocities which tend to foreshadow events that may or may not happen in the book.  For instance, if one reads that a ‘real-life’ deviant made sausage out of murder victims, and then one reads of a character in The Quiet Twin making sausage… well, one has to wonder.

        It is the best book of mood and the edges of internal human existence I have read since Graham Greene died.

        Dan Vyleta and I exchanged a series of emails about his book, his career, and his writing methods.  That Question & Answer is below. Enjoy.

1) The case studies – they definitely play with the reader’s head in terms of setting up expectations and then proving them wrong.  How did you come to include them and was that your intent?

As much as possible I try to write the same way that I read, which is to say in ignorance of the ending.  Naturally I have ideas that reach into the future, buti want to remain flexible enough to follow whatever path opens up in the course of writing.  As the book grows, there is a continuous dialogue between text and author: I try to listen for where the book wants to go.  In this and many other senses, I don’t think I knew my own book until it was finished.  So while some of the “twists” you are referring to are poart of the architecture of the book, many of them are the result of this dialogue.

2) Kafka, Greene, Dostoyevsky, Chris Isherwood – Were any of these direct influences on The Quiet Twin, or in general, how does it feel being compared to these giants?

Naturally, it is very flattering to be compared to someone like Dostoyevsky, as well as intimidating.  I think their influence is not a direct one; rather, when you read a book like Demons, or The Heart of the Matter, or Metamorphosis, something rubs off.  It is a matter of both rhythm and of a mode of perception: once you have read them, the world is never quite the same again.  It is little wonder, then, that it would show in my prose.

3) This is such a dark book.  What is it like for a writer, turning out your 500 or 1000 words per day, then going on to… order pizza?  What did the writing of The Quiet Twin take from you or add to you?

It is important, I think, to write with a genuine love for one’s characters.  It was a joy to spend time in their midst, even in catastrophe.  It is true, of course, that I have stacked the cards against them, and there were melancholy moments when writing the book.  I wrote much of it in winter: a quiet time, the world buried under snow.  I did not mind the melancholia.  It was only when it came to writing the villain of the piece that the book pushed me into anger.  I remember writing the first section in which he appears and coming down with a tremendous headache.

4) Could it happen again?

All I know is this: there are temptations to fascism, and to totalitarianism more generally.  Fascism provides economic opportunities’ provides space to act upon longstanding resentments; a chance to earn praise for one’s basest instincts.  And there’s plenty of hate going around, and plenty of fear.  That, and democracy is frustrating to many people, because, intrinsically, it relies on argument and compromise.

 

Fiction

Quarry Swimming

by Hillary Walker

My childhood friend is pregnant now.  I haven’t seen her since we were twenty, and now I am seeing her again, and my hand is on her rounded belly, which is like the lake in the mountains, which were lavender slate beneath the evergreens.  I was sixteen that summer.  We swam there at night, naked with her father and mother, who were also naked, whom we saw making love on the shore as we rose to the surface and then sundered the water, sinking down, as if we were making love to the lake, but we had never never made love before, we were only girls, and we didn’t know what would happen to us.  Our hair slicked to our scalps, our limbs free, the fleeting openness between our legs, which surprised, as we kicked them.  Her leg slid across my thigh, which no longer seemed my own, and my lips were wet with the lake, which shone like a mirror but darkly.  She plummeted down and then I, too, into the depth, until I was blind, until my eyes had not yet grown, until I could not mark my beginning and the end of the world.  But I am inside the world.  We pass through each other, and only later, when I shudder as a boy strokes, do I realize that an orgasm is that flooding open, the spasm that you are inside the world and that one day you will die.

My hand is on her belly, and we are in the lake.

Now her husband is returning with our coffees.  He is handsome.  I do not know him, they only married the year before, they married in the coldest month.  He is carrying two little coffees, the cups are yellow china, one is decaffeinated, one is quivering and spilling over into the saucer, he is going back for the third, his own, and my hand is still on her belly.  I blush.

I feel the baby kick, and we are in the lake, swimming, swimming in the darkness, which he will never know.  He will never know how she was that summer, inside that lake, even if she tells him how her parents moved like a wave upon the shore, even if she describes the sound of the wind through the trees and the way we held our breath beneath the water and then she held my breasts.  There are things he cannot know, things that came before, things that are inside her even if she doesn’t remember them.

Rock had been cut from the bottom.  The lake had been a quarry.

The moon made the mountains glow.

Her husband is adding sugar to his coffee.

My hand is on her belly, and we are in the lake, but we are not the same, and I never saw her wedding.

 

Poetry

by Chizuco Sophia Yw

Hand mirror

How many things were reflected?

How many people were seen?

What did the people do when he/she found his/her copy in the mirror?

Mirror knows. It’s never real people in the mirror.

A copy is disappeared and showed up repeated and repeated and repeated.

Mirror tried to make exact copy and tried to make them satisfied.

Nevertheless people treat it badly.

Mirror is getting tired.

It got dirty, cracked and broken then can never make exact same copy.

Then people threw it into garbage like it never worked.

Painting

Painting is

My memory

My current situation

Mirror of my heart

Nonfiction

Becoming a Nielsen Family

by Jane Elias

I learned something those first months flying solo.  If I answered my phone between six and eight p.m. on any given weekday, I could count on one of two things to follow: a prerecorded Guy Smiley would inform me I had “won” a five-day, five-night Caribbean vacation, provided I set aside two of those days to tour properties and invest in a money-pit time share; or my mother would want to know what I ate for dinner, and if I went out without a coat.

So it was with uncharacteristic readiness that I answered the phone one Tuesday evening in the summer of 1998 (that fleeting “this time it will be different” hope had, once again, reared its pipe-dreaméd head) only to discover, to my admittedly disproportionate delight, that I had been chosen by the entity behind Sweeps Week to become a Nielsen Family.

Images of small charts and tables in the corner of the Times TV listings page flashed through my mind; for years I had glanced ignorantly at the mysterious data that revealed the most-watched programs in America.  How did they know?  I always thought they kind of guessed, or extrapolated numbers from some half-assed phone survey.  But they actually collected real data from real people.  And they used real human operators to contact potential Families.  And now they were calling me.  I had arrived.  Specto, ergo sum.

The Nielsen representative was clearly reading from a script, but his lack of commitment to it and my recognition of that fact made for a pleasantly relaxed banter, as if we had gone through these motions together before and had an understanding that I would humor him through the end of his pitch.  (Not to mention that he sounded pretty sexy.  Was he single?  Or did he have a real-live Nielsen Family of his own, replete with spouse, offspring, and television sets in every communal room of the house?  I didn’t dare ask.)  He explained that I had been randomly chosen to participate in the Nielsen ratings, that I would be contributing to the important research that Nielsen conducts on the television-viewing habits of the American public.  I found myself positively giddy about the possibility of representing twenty-five thousand families in the New York metropolitan area; further, I would be doing so via the cable-free television in my studio apartment that, on a good day, received decent reception for a maximum of three stations – one of which was the now-defunct WB.

The benevolent Nielsen organization would never try to sell me anything; they would, in fact, send me a check for fifty dollars as a thank-you for my participation, followed by one dollar per month for each TV and VCR in my home (twelve dollars per year).  They would also repair any damages incurred to my equipment during this stint.

How could I possibly refuse?  Here I was being delegated a power I was already planning to wield by keeping PBS running 24/7 and throwing NOVA into the running.  Not to mention that my single-person-in-Manhattan existence was about to be validated as that of an entire family.  I agreed, and we made an appointment to meet later in the week for an interview.

***

It was not an unsavory experience to be greeted on Thursday evening in the lobby of my building by Gregory.  Unexpectedly congruent with his silky baritone phone voice, he was a tall, chiseled Denzel doppelganger in a slick black suit and black fedora.  Was this real?

His getup, coupled with the official-looking name tag bearing his mug, name, and the words “Nielsen Media Research” in bold black letters, led me to believe I was in fact dealing with an organization of no small stature, and with unabashed FBI-esque posturing.

We sat in the park across the street, where he opened his briefcase and passed me some Nielsen propaganda to peruse: photos of the friendly Nielsen representative, the glowing Nielsen Family of five in front of their television set, and the amiable Nielsen “technician” who visits the home to connect a special box to the TV tuner that nightly sends an electronic viewing-report message to headquarters.  Though the Orwellian aura surrounding this process was nothing less than unsettling, I, still basking in the afterglow that came with winning the Mega Millions jackpot, filled out questionnaires and capitulated to everything in writing.  Next step: the installation.

***

The Nielsen techie was scheduled to arrive at my apartment on Friday evening, but things started to take a turn that morning.  It began with an innocuous request from Nielsen to change my appointment time.  This call was followed by an inquiry of a more investigative nature: What’s the name of the company I work for?  It’s a publisher of what, exactly?  My job is what, exactly?  I’m an editor?  I’m a writer?  I’m possibly ineligible.  They’ll get back to me.

        They got back to me bearing the unfathomable news: as an employee of a trade book publisher, I was rendered ineligible to participate as a Nielsen Family.

The deflation came as abruptly as the initial surge of pleasure.  The self-proclaimed “TV people” were breaking up with me, and I made sure to let them know that they were losing a good thing, under the guise of disappointment that I couldn’t participate in their piddling survey.  How could an organization whose mission – proudly stated to me several times previously – was to survey a wide cross-section of television viewers, at the same time exclude such a substantial segment of the population?  A population that, given the chance, might’ve just knocked out Friends and put, well, anything else in its place?  (I was a fairly regular Friends watcher, but this was beside the point.)  They were unselecting me, and dammit, this discrimination was just bad science.

        More telephone exchanges followed.  My eligibility was examined and reexamined: I think I was misinterpreted, I don’t work for a magazine, I deal with printers and manufacturers, I watch TV for crying out loud.  Yes, but you have an editorial function, you fall under the blanket category, this is to protect the networks – you present a risk.

There was some comfort to be taken from the fact that my status had been elevated from Nielsen Family to network threat.  I imagined Gregory returning to my apartment building to cuff and cart off my high-risk self after I’d poisoned the Nielsen data with my editorially tainted viewing habits.  But a swelling self-righteousness I had never before experienced drove me to call the Nielsen headquarters in Florida, received with a faintly accusing “How did you get this number?”

        After more waffling on their end, it was concluded that I must be disqualified.  In an attempt to assuage the blow, the last contact I spoke with in the New York office offered a tale of one potential Family who, while having his set rigged by the Nielsen technician, revealed that he was an editor at the New York Times.  Following that, Nielsen literally pulled the plug.  Rather than succeeding to make me feel less alone, this story only reemphasized my newfound distaste for the TV people.

***

After I hung up the phone I conjured all the things I could’ve done with that fifty dollars.  A new low-end pair of running shoes.  Five legal outings at the multiplex.  Seven $6.99 bottles of wine.  I thought of the extra pack of gum I would’ve purchased with each month’s bonus dollar.  I dreamed of the tingling sensation I might’ve experienced knowing a signal was being transmitted to Nielsen headquarters from my television, as if my own body and all its electrical impulses were patched in too.  But I was a renegade consumer whose channel selections would continue to go unchecked; this should have been a consolation, a return to normalcy, but somehow it wasn’t.  Something was different now that I had been ousted from a community I didn’t even know I wanted to join.

Picking up the phone again, I found myself dialing information and asking to be connected to Time Warner.  I signed up for their standard plus package, $49.99 per month, finally inducting myself after so many years.

I left work with a sort of empty satisfaction, as if I had skipped breakfast and lunch and just eaten three Snickers bars.  I arrived home and surveyed the room: the neatly made double bed with two decorative square pillows atop the duvet, the hard-backed Shaker-style dining chairs, the rows of novels, arranged in size order, that I had last cracked in college.

I sat on the bed and stared at the hand-me-down nineteen-inch Toshiba set.  It would be two more days before my new life as a cable subscriber would officially begin.  I picked up the remote on the nightstand and turned it on, but there was only static.  I kept the volume on low and lay back.  A phantom pain I couldn’t name was taking hold of my arms and legs.  I closed my eyes and waited.

Poetry

Lie Again Tomorrow

by Rigby Bendele

Press on the cake of makeup, the pleated
skirt, the earrings hitting you right over
your jawline, bringing out your drag once more
for your mother, the woman that expects
the little girl who wore clip-ons, wanting
nothing more than to be her.  But she’s not
here anymore, gone to live somewhere else –
some graveyard for wishes.  Rather, a man
stands within you now, the man that gets looks
in the something’s-not-right sense as he waits
for a tailored suit, hips too wide to be
natural, waist pulled in.  They whisper, asking
beneath your ears if you’re a boy or girl –
the very question your mother hates.

 

Review

Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier (McClelland & Stewart, 2011)

by Hubert O’Hearn

I looked in Small Mechanics for any mention of a squat figure in coveralls who is a dab hand at tuning up an Alfa Romeo to no avail.  Lorna Crozier’s sixteenth collection is not a celebration of the wrench and hammer set, but rather a series of elaborations on the relationship of the individual to death and loss, love and aging, and cats.  We’ll get back to the cats shortly.

There is something about the soul of the poetry reader that rebels against the use of the word ‘mechanics.’  Poems are supposed to appear like magic vapour that shapes itself into a pleasing mystic form.  They’re supposed to, and at their best they appear to, but they don’t at all.  Writing about very large subjects in very small forms does require all the measured precision of constructing a bridge across dangerous waters.

Crozier is well-accomplished at this skill.  Her metres are strong enough to build a house on while never clunking into Hallmark-ese.  She also knows when to make the reader stop, think, or occasionally laugh.  An example from a delightful poem called ‘The Onion Seller’:

Half-in, half-out of shadow, his black

tail flicking, the cat is of two minds,

both of them indisputably cat.

I told you we’d get back to the cats.  Maybe it’s just me, but I love when Crozier is playful in her writing.  There’s a reference to Dorothy Parker ‘with runs in her stockings and hair of smoke’ in a poem called, um, ‘The Bad Poem’ and it is when Crozier allows that slightly mad side to appear on the page that those magic vapours start to appear.  I mentioned love and aging as one of the running themes of Small Mechanics.  Here is a verse from ‘My Last Erotic Poem’ that says it all:

When you whisper what you want I can’t hear,

but do it anyway, and somehow get it right.  Face it,

some nights we’d rather eat a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar

or watch a movie starring Nick Nolte who looks worse than us.

Some nights we’d rather stroke the cats.

No word as to the cats’ opinion.  All seriousness not to be put aside however, Crozier does lay out in verse that point in life where life points more to the past than to the future.  A series of poems mourning her mother truly tear the eye and tear the heart, as does the best poem in the collection called ‘My Father, Riding.’  Crozier goes to a place in a field where her parents used to me for picnics as young lovers.  The imagined parents become real while the poet herself becomes the spectre.  From the final stanza:

Does the rider see her?  He looks right through me.

For her, he is on a grey horse soon beside her,

and he’s reaching down.  For me, he slides

to the ground, sits on the blanket, and tips his beer.

I can feel its coolness in his mouth.

I truly enjoyed Lorna Crozier’s Small Mechanics.  I read it while sat outside on a spring day while sipping on a martini.  The combination made for a delightful evening.  And that’s the final word.