“Mandible Wishbone Solvent” by Asiya Wadud (Poetry, March 2022). Pass 3 of 3.
You. Be. Here. It’s an affirming imperative to exist, or be situate, in the speaker’s space-time. It’s addressed to “tilt” — twice “tender” now — and angled vertically to a plane christened “unearth,” or else one required to perform an act of unearth-ing, understood venturesomely as slipping Earth’s bond. The text pivots here as elsewhere on function-fluid diction in blurred contexts.
The reader has a blue-sky moment: A rocket breaking free of terrestrial gravity blazes its way towards a far trajectory. Gain of height thins blue atmosphere to a vanishing wake. Land and sea resolve into map-like features. It’s all a function of the “scant excess” of mad tilt, wrapped in whatever that “film” is. Such a sweet, severe angle would be “remiss in skies,” aeronautically delinquent for earthbound flight.
And to what end? “To wrest time.” Wresting is an act of forceful seizure. All life yanks itself from the jaws of death from one moment to the next, grabbing bits of time. Those “brimmed solvents,” the carbon syrups milked from ancient sediments on which futures for too long have been staked and stoked, are bested in promise by what “gives more” for snatching increments of futurity, which is …
And the reader’s meditation collapses. In the final analysis the text stands its ground, enclosed in its film, true only to its own designs. The reader has shaken his mind’s fist at it saying, You. Be. Clear. It has stayed frosty. It doesn’t give a shit for his demands. But when he averted his gaze in disgust, his eye had caught movement peripherally; the text made him look back. A loop was entered: attraction and repulsion went to war.
At length the reader exited the loop by ceding something — maybe a bit of complacency. Surrender feels not all good and not all bad. The reader makes a thing of his squabbles with the text. What you think isn’t what I wrote, says the poet. The reader responds, But you triggered a striving. You induced in me a commitment to be baffled for a time. And the reader is grateful for her text. He keeps whatever it wrested from him. It’s personal now.
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