Friday, February 24, 2012


Movement, a poem by Wyn Cooper, is one of those poems that irritates you because it starts off  well and ends in nothing less than a gasping whimper .We are to make note of all the movement that occurs in this narrative, the countryside the narrator, speaking to a nameless companion, speaks of . The tone is nostalgic, the recounting of annoyances fondly recalled. But time goes on, life advances from one neighborhood to another, one terrain for another completely unlike it. One moves and attempts to be quickly assimilated by something more urban, bustling, impatient, impolite, a city that narrator doesn't want to discuss, not for long. 

This is the pun contained in the title, an obvious ploy from the get go; the irony, I suppose, would be that the weather, the relative stillness, the lack urgency in the bucolic ruins of fading America are not, in fact, cursed with inertia, as the speaker addresses the particulars with telling , nearly idealized detail. An implied sigh accompanies the pause between first and second stanza; this is the part of the conversation where the speaker is lost in thought and averts his eyes, falls into a melancholy that dares him to speak what he is not able to find words for.  The poem goes from being fairly specific to  vague and euphemistic. The effect is spoiled by Wyn Cooper's need to sum up the inchoate morass seething under the surface of these well mannered images; 

"...before we
settled in a city of other movements,
found new rhythms that suit us better,
we tell ourselves over and over. "

The poem is a nice if other unremarkable presentation of the low level anxiety that haunts the suburbs of John Cheever, an American master short story writer and novelist who brilliantly explored a generation of the white middle class that had to distract themselves with drugs, adultery and workaholism to deaden the collective suspicion that the lifestyle and manicured neighborhoods they chose for themselves are life less manifestations of a culture that has mistakes material gain as the point of existence. Cheever, though, was much subtler and more lyrical as he wrote of his characters attempts to fill an emptiness that will not be healed. Cooper  had some more writing to do to make this idea work; the poem just quits suddenly and the screen one imagines this  monologue being played against goes blank.  The last sentence reveals an unwillingness to see this thing through. The poet is unsure how he wants to talk about this string of related icons.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Before we start

Before we start
lets place a dime next to our plates
to tell us where the chatter stops
when the words get hard as the water
in the streaked water glass.
I could stop on a dime
back in the day
when I drove a station wagon
to the store,a trail of tread
behind me showing me
every light I skirted.
It was your skirt that turned my head
when I stopped for a paper,
fingering the dashboard ashtray
for a dime.
All those screaming headlines
never stopped coming,
the news didn't change
when we married
after months of talking about
current events as we ate
Asian take out.
Today I drive
nothing but trivial paths,
you are the keeper of the dimes
and the traction in the tread of my shoes,

I sing your name
when I buy a paper,
you are the music
the headlines never had.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A credo mislaid


Not this day or that
or even a day in spring
when I might sing
or dance three—legged across the floor
hailing the end of the night
as another eve of
hedged bets,

Not even a month of Sundays
could cajole easy praise for
proper nouns naming roads
that honor killers
stitched together with
the cheapest-oar
the pins won’t stick,
the alibis won’t adhere
to St. Peter's beard,

Never in the lightest years
would I dream denying the
truth of a
small flower blooming across the street
from a three car pile—up:

Irony is cheap
when the market bears a grudge.