Mandible Wishbone Solvent” by Asiya Wadud (Poetry, March 2022).
[Previously commented text: https://ethicaldative.com/2022/04/25/mandible-wishbone-solvent-pass-1-of-3/ ]
what vaunted green excess enclosed in each skimmed year then the years / vanquished any fuchsia sky / the excess leaking forward filmed aqua / filled aqua // fastened by ulna by increments of ten / fortunes sidled with / what have we when we give the mandible fragments by tens? / …
Here’s the text with one possible marking:
What vaunted green excess enclosed in each skimmed year! Then the years vanquished any fuchsia sky, the excess leaking forward filmed aqua, filled aqua, fastened by ulna by increments of ten. Fortunes sidled with what have we when we give the mandible fragments by tens?
The subject of the exclamation is “excess.” An over-abundant object of perception or state of matter has an annual cycle of occurrence. A “skimmed” year may be one traversed over time like a bird skims an expanse of water. The excessive entity is “green,” suggestive of verdant growth. It’s magnified by praise that has the hint of aggrandizement attaching to “vaunted.”
“Then,” an ordering and transitioning word, advances the narrative along a sequence. “Years,” agent of the independent clause, have overcome and defeated “any” sky tinted purple-pink, a cast of dawns and sunsets. The emphatic determiner “any” conveys finality, perhaps loss. Indeed, the excess is leaking “aqua,” which is green going blue, the hue of tropical seas. The leak is “forward,” with implications for the future. “Filmed” is unsettling. Is the leaked aqua enveloped in membrane? Captured on camera? “Filled” is even more daunting. The object of leakage is in a filled state? The poem shrugs off this line of query.
The “ulna” is a long thin bone in a bird’s wing, and in the human forearm. Absent a determiner, “ulna” could be something like the Roman name for Terpsichore. Proximity favors “aqua” as the thing “fastened” by ulna, though syntax allows “excess,” “sky” or “years.” The decimal unit that haunts the poem measures the progressive securing of something by a bone. In a bird’s wing, that bone would be a key enabler of flight.
A question mark, sole punctuation of the text, terminates this verse. “To sidle” is to walk sneakily sideways like Uriah Heep. Since it’s intransitive, it’s not fit in conventional parlance to be a verbal adjective as in “fortunes sidled (with).” Its semantics are stretched here beyond recognition and I want guiltily to read it as “saddled.” A “mandible” is a jawbone and either part of a bird’s beak. Giving vocal prominence to the question word causes this part of the text to coalesce around the phrase “what have we,” which draws me into the spirit, if not letter, of the verse.
To eye the text through a grammatical lens involves an act of assertion which may not be received with grace. Spare proper lyric your specious exegesis, murmurs my imaginary connoisseur. Note taken; I’m not equipped to disagree, only to flout. An element of je-m’en-foutisme must win through for one who improvises commentary. Does esthetic pleasure or spiritual gain compensate the expenditure of bandwidth? The answer to that belongs to the reader and not the poet.
(To be continued…)
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