This week’s new favorite poet got my attention in the 11/07/11 issue of The New Yorker with his poem
I think I think of what I want en masse,
as concrete thinks it wants the overpass—
while wind and broken glass want heavy rains,
Los Angeles I want across the plains.
I hear myself collecting what I’ve caught,
like “in the hospital and you’ve been shot.”
As time so clearly in the precinct falls,
with phone calls mounting crisis on the walls,
police are humming parts of prime time hooks:
I want their fade-out lines and distant looks.
I want this pickup idling for a beat,
then turning, backing quickly up the street.
I want the time it takes the sound to reach
across from where the tires this moment screech.
I think I often, eyes half-closed, will veer;
I want inside the truck or walking near.
I want the pillow I passed absently,
not wind holding a bag against a tree.
I think I’m in a transformation mood.
I’m going to the diner for some food.
I asked for coffee, but it’s not been brought.
I think I’ve seen this menu quite a lot.
As children love to turn in spinning doors,
I keep re-running these Formica floors,
though each time through I see there less to take.
I want the leaves from neighbors’ trees to rake.
The grass across the street is overgrown.
This was a scene for several years I’d known.
Something I saw there right before it burst.
It’s darker later than it was at first.
There are several things I really love about this poem. First, his use of rhyme and rhythm (as much if not MORE THAN the words) sets the scene. We feel the same sense of routine the subject feels, because the rhythm leads us down this path. The use of the words “I want” frequently show us that even though the narrator desires it, he does not actually get it.
Continuing on the subject of rhyme, I love the adult “Dr. Seuss” quality to the couplets. It lends an air of whimsy to a poem that isn’t whimsical at all, really. The resulting contrast makes the work more defined and lyrical.
The tone of the poem brought to my mind a Edward Hopper painting, and while reading it, the pictures running through my head were muted in color, with simple, bold lines:
His website can be found by clicking here, in case (like I did) you would like to know more about him.