“Mild Enemy Lotion” from caconrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon
I started reading ca conrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon again this morning and I can tell I’m in for some serious experience here—the kind you can only survive in small doses.
Having swum in the poem, “Mild Enemy Lotion,” for what must have been at least half an hour (I don’t know for sure, I’ve lost track of time) I feel as if I’m being sprayed from all sides by the presence and absence of commas. It glitters. And I’m not exaggerating.
The extent to which everything depends upon the very particular presence of commas’ absence bursts out everywhere. It’s both instability and possibility which result when so many connections might happen between words and phrases.
Instead of grammatical connections, like commas or conjunctions, the poem seems to slip through and between parallels. Beginning and ending in the imperative verb tense, in the poem, “do not sleep bundle unfurled / sleep / less sleep less paint fire on car drive long as miles last” becomes “ourselves at garment awareness / sleep less hold breath open let us keep our hours.” It’s as if the poem has unfolded between the three instances of “sleep less,” the unfurled bundle and the “garment awareness,” the driving “long as miles last” and the “hold[ing] breath open,” between the units of measure, hours and miles, understood as open or closed.
The space of the poem becomes one of experience in which bodies, motion, action, sensation, time, verbs, nouns, plural and possessive pronouns (we, us, ourselves, everyone, our, their), and adjectives intermingle. Synesthesia extends far beyond the senses. And it’s actually an act of extending that seems to be the motion of the poem. Time, space, and experience isn’t stretched, but rather it’s fibers are added to and accrue extensibility and viscosity. Thus the directed connectivity of a comma or conjunctions such as “and” or “or” would fail to be sufficient for the type of suffusion-within-experience that the poem produces and moves through.
And it’s this stretch and viscidness that’s belied by the right and left margins. The margins function like commas would, dividing the poem into strips, shaping it most of the time into something that appears neat and orderly. However these margin strips are actually yet another type of extension because they slice at agrammatical places. Their “division” then becomes an insertion of blank space that pauses time long enough for a double take, as between the lines, “every ray we examine is more / vintage than the next these impressions of hope / give us total immersion sleep less everyone is two / places here and in memory.”
Surplus connectivity, a fog of shimmering presence and absence… I’m again at the first lines (the only ones that have slipped through the grasp of at least one of the margins): “do not sleep bundle unfurled / sleep / less sleep less paint fire on car drive long as miles last / tension envelops us no more.” I’ve been on page 17 for several hours now and I haven’t even mentioned “mild enemy lotion,” “much more human in our listening,” “RADAR ATTENTIVE DRIVING,” the process of clenching and unclenching one’s toes in recognition of dishonesty which conrad associates with this poem ((soma)tic 4 Digit Congnizance), or, or, or—Tags: beautiful marsupial afternoon, ca conrad, digit cognizance, mild enemy lotion, sleep, somatic, wave books