Arthur Vogelsang, from Left Wing of a Bird:
The Red City
The glue fell out of the book, 1801.
She said in the book,
"I carved a tiny pumpkin for Halloween 2001."
A sound remains over 200 years, choking of course.
Or there's no sound, there's a Polaroid:
An eyedropper towers above a squash.
Tinfoil is spread in front of its face—
To make it blush more she says
Than the little piece of cut candle inside can.
Or it was a whim in 1801 to celebrate a couple of centuries,
To just flat out do something for 2001,
So far away, so science fiction.
How many grandmothers ago, five? six?
A cousin is dead, to the south, in the Cleveland National Forest,
The last of the clan, except for one,
Who has carved a pumpkin in 1801
Or a tiny one for Halloween 2001,
Warm yellow meat, odor of fresh glue.
Isn't it weird? (I don't know what the rules are about typing up copywrighted material, so, uh...consider this a "review", I guess. (Blah blah blah, really good book, yadda yadda yadda...let's see, it's published by Sarabande, it costs $12.95... there, it's a review.)) I don't know who's who where or what in this poem and that's what I like about it. I like not knowing what "the red city" is, or what this book with the glue is he's talking about, or what happened in the Cleveland National Forest. (What happens in the Cleveland National Forest stays in the Cleveland National Forest.) And what's with the "or" here: "Who has carved a pumpkin in 1801 / Or a tiny one for Halloween 2001"? When is what going on, who, where? What dimension does this pumpkin exist in? Quantum mechanics seem to be involved somehow.
Some people complain when they don't understand what's going on in a poem, or when there's a reference they don't get. They say it's alienating or elitist or something. Like they need every little thing explained to them in a poem in a direct no-nonsense way or they start crying. Boring. Not knowing stuff is like "white space" of the mind. Gaps are fun because you can fill them in. I mean, not with exact words or specific thoughts, but it's like, room to move around in, room for your mind.... I don't like closed poems—I'm not necessarily even talking about endings—but poems where every seat in the auditorium is full—full of the poet—and there's nowhere for your own mind to take a seat and join in on the experience, interact, like you're really inside it.... Poems with thought-gaps are a lot less alienating than poems without them, it seems to me....