October 6, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

Armoire and Itinerary

In case you haven’t heard, Alaskan Language Poet Sarah Palin has been getting a lot of press in the mainstream media and blogosphere. Here’s what everyman poet blogger Michael Microbrew has to say: “Palin? The American vernacular drops from her lips with the subtlety of a free falling armoire!”

I agree, Mike.

But let’s get to some real news. Reginald Shepherd’s chapbook, Itinerary. Itinerary is news. Here’s a dispatch:


I’m always putting things in poems
where I think they’ll keep, lying
to the lying gods to make a way
out of whatever ways I have.
The rooms we wander through
on a day of no significance
are white, are beige, are gray, nothing
of any importance will happen
today. A fake fragment of Greek frieze
frames three plaster women in pleated chinos
sitting on a bus, or so it looks
from here, a krater holds a plastic plant
(saw palmetto, perhaps) that’s following
them, but they don’t seem to be
moved. Graffiti in the men’s room stall
reads “TEXT,” reads “SIGN,”
and also the word “DEUCE”
scratched into green-painted metal.

Think of all the blunder and fault
in the world, a noisy lexicon
of mistake, hoots, jargles, squawks,
and rasps, think of all the bending
and the breaking of oak boughs.
Think of the quartz beach wrecked
by recent hurricanes, driftwood
and seaweed beginning to stink,
plastic cup lids I mistook for shells.
(We have seen the wind
by what it leaves behind, its wreckage
and detritus, but the water
won’t be wounded.)

File this pearl-smooth conch interior
under no, press it against your ear
as if it were the spirit radio,
and you were walking down the street
tuned just to one voice, wading
waist-high through shallow light.
The minutes continue their shine, the shapes
of color change and turn; a wind
blows through my skin
and you renew the weather.
I will not entirely die.

The cover of Itinerary holds what looks like a heart. It’s not connected to other organs, it’s disembodied, but I wouldn’t say it’s “entirely dead,” either.

It’s not news that we’ll die, or even that, gone, we might keep safely in those we’ve loved. But this poem has a real “spirit radio,” and that radio gives a good truth new life, new lives. “I will not entirely die.” I agree, entirely.