Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, June 8, 2014

To Be Small and Stay Small

BTB is nothing if not opportunistic in its approach to the Poetry in Agitation summer series. Here is a poem by Emily Fragos, a poet I only encountered this afternoon at the American Academy of Arts and Letters exhibition at the Audubon Terrace (open for another week). The gif (first on BTB) is by Hilary Faye and was part of a candy-box exhibit (now closed), Hyper-Resemblances, at Columbia's Wallach Gallery.
Hilary Faye, Untitled, 2011
On Robert Walser (1878-1956)

You saw a dwarf and imagined yourself a dwarf
or the old homeless hag, pushing her cart of junk.

You closed your eyes for days at a time,
groping along the village walls, tumbling into bushes
with an embarrassed gasp.

You adored the gentlewoman--her pillowy bum--
and the chattering birds with faces like walnuts
and feet like twigs, so alive, alert, and active

in their birdie pursuits. Standing alone in your stale,
furnished room, you felt a shudder of feather
and the glowing air grew full, so close. To be alive

was wonderful, but to be small and stay small--
drop of water into the water.

This is about the outside limit on length for a subway poem. And let's hope no one is offended by uncovering a "pillowy bum" on the F train. What if the reader is not familiar with Robert Walser, the German minimalist (if that's the right word for his micro-prose)? Matters not at all. Here is a poem about the imagination and the places it lifts us to and trips us into.

For those interested in the evolution of a poem, I include the photo I took of the draft displayed at the exhibit (shot through the glass). The few changes in word choice and the ending are small but potent:

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