—Aaron Tieger

I got a copy of Aaron Tieger's Feburary along with Property Line, as a kind gift from Jess Mynes.

February is a cream-colored book of sixteen pages, thin and tall, the right edge a little frayed (I don't know if that's just my copy), like a gaunt and lanky man asking you for a cigarette outside a bus station.

It's set in Perpetua, which is what I set my chapbook blue wheels and handshakes in. Hurrah!

Wonderful paper, textured, pocks and crinkles gathered in it, clutter of late winter kind of paper.

Speaking of sets: opening up to a poem called "2/1/05," not knowing what to expect, you get set for a month submersion, that sort of David Lehman onslaught style "gee-here's-today" poem. But thankfully Aaron abandons that conceit by the second poem. Which, coupled with the book's first lines, "Waking early from / dreams of waking early" casts an unsteady, elusive sense of loss about the whole thing from the get-go. Elusive loss? I mean that we're not sure what we're losing, we're not sure, we're not sure, then it's too late. Exactly the feeling I get from February anyway. It doesn't really excite me to watch ice melt. It bums me out. I know some people go in for bees and buds and things, but February reminds me more of Aaron's "gone cafes," or places where "frozen locks fall into doors," places where the coming Spring is really a violent upheaval — of snow to slush to rain — and you sometimes want to just hunker in and avoid it. Everything outside antsy, turning, the snow turning, while you're stuck, doing what you do when you get stuck, which is remembering:

Chris Rizzo Valentine
—Aaron Tieger

       Perfect night
for a beer or some tea
downstairs, white stone
walls echo low
rain & gas
heater blow

       but the shop shut
w/the year and I'm here
not there
the trains past
the highway here
you there.


There is a rollicking delicacy to Aaron's wordplay: check the "here" versus "there" of the second stanza. His verbal music is like one of those junk-heap carnival rides in Portland headed back to the ocean after the parade. If you can unknot it without breaking it, you get at stuff like how slippery our connection to the now is — like if you see a traintrack you want to slip back into your old traintracks. This isn't fair, but look at that second stanza and think of the phrase "I can't see you without seeing ____."

Along with the fuss-less clarity with which Aaron renders things like "walls echo low / rain & gas / heater blow," I like this wordplay a whole super-lot. My favorite quatrain from the whole book, probably, comes from "Two Cafes:"

              Garlic soup
       and grenadine
       and ham and cheese
       and flan.

This is a great three lines of a great word cluster. It's easy to look at dumb word clusters and walk away, but sometimes with good sets I get skeptical about the line-setup. So, me, I would've shoved "garlic soup" and "and grenadine" together, to say "garlic soup and grenadine," because I am young and insecure and flashy, and that's how I eat, like I'll never die. But it's nice to catch myself, to take that pause, to take that "and" not as a quick shoelace strung between phrases, but a little cymbal of announcement. Or: think of cursive. Those lines remind me of how you're supposed to write cursive.

And food-wise, that isn't a bad recipe for raising a toast to gone cafes: Flan! Flan! Like flipping off executioners during the Spanish Civil War. I hope that statement doesn't make me racist.

There is plenty of such toast raising in these poems, dedication, paeans aplenty to the heart's attic. I don't mind that. I'm not afraid of the odic, the eulogic. (Those words may be fake.) Sometimes February the month makes me look like an attic. But I don't want to say these poems are wimpy "those-were-the-days" shit. Why? Birthdays are coming! Somebody's. Ours? It's there, birthdays, which I guess is kind of like rebirth, but I'm trying not to think that, because rebirth means repeating the shitty birthing process, while birthdays mean razzing it up for the fact you made it out. If there's nostalgia in these poems, it's the nostalgia you get right before your birthday, which is like the look you give your pit crew before you turn the ignition. And Feburary's last two poems turn — or, I guess, settle, give up with the turning snow, conjure and gather the violets up, reset to a "clearing sky," find everything boring and sunny again. The last two poems are spare and well-wrought, but they tend to depress me, after all the chaos swamping the walk depicted in the valentine, all the submersion in memory to evade the outside world. Once you get to go outside again, you only have one outside. When you're stuck in the past, you can have however many outsides you've managed to stack up.

I sound like I need a teddy bear or something.

Maybe the best way to say all that comes from the beautiful fucking beautiful end of this poem:

Tension Tamer
—Aaron Tieger

in every room
big socks old
sweater low
light hot
mug quiet
night soft
cheeks soft
breath big
bed more
cats dark breathe



If you numb yourself to all the regrets that accompany your past, there is a floodlight there, a light like a honey-light, a light for February that will always trump whatever March happens to wake up.

For me, to see those three lines after that stanza (with its own great sequences: "big / bed more / cats" is my favorite), in Perpetua, on paper like a streetlamp-post, makes this book good enough to gift. To a good friend in January, right? Like try this. Drink grenadine. Watch snow.



As promised, over the next four days I will spout about four lovely things: Property Line by Joe Massey, February by Aaron Tieger, you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin, and Backwards City Review #4.

Thank you for joining me on my blog's unsalted trek into continuity.


Property Line
--Joe Massey

Both Property Line and February are products of Jess Mynes's Fewer and Futher Press. PL is delicate to hold, but less like something that will fall apart than something in a wise rest. Or: think of someone making tiramisu in a tin hut, tucked away, under a little rain. That is what PL feels like.

(I think I am going to call Joe Massey Joe, and not Massey. Because he is a nice guy. I don't know.)

And the words: my favorite entanglement of these poems is the one they have with time. The wind you see is a wind from several mornings ago. And everything is in its own stage: fuchsia at one point in their life, mosquitoes at another. Really good writing sort of cripples you, right? It suspends your coping mechanisms in favor of some sudden and flavored sensitivity. If you were to read PL on your bike, everything would start to look like a million unfinished quilting projects. And a tension comes from this. Almost suspicion, but a busted, helpless suspicion. Like we all own our particular lives, our particular histories. But to strange things we render only moments. So we face off—whatever we're doing to each other, it's a face-off, an abbreviated presentation. Cellphone bags "face" the overcast above them, clouds and bags with a lot of story (sorry about the retreat to narrative) behind their situations, both only with their current states to show. I think that's what makes Joe's verbal music so sad and beautiful for me: how those verbs and vowels line up and do so much revelatory sonic work, for only a huge amount of such work can gesture to the lineage of all subjects.

Here is an example:

—Joe Massey

Spider web

weighted with
a wet receipt


You have the web, the wind, the receipt -- they are all staring at each other, trying and failing to hold their cards in, tangled in the moment where their stories intersect.

Is this sort of like the "property line" of the title? This intersection of lineages (that's not a word, btw)? With all the anxious connotations? Like how the hell do things cross into each other, the way they do all the time?

I don't know.

There is also some more fundamental and awesome geography in these poems. Part of it is simply how things get around:

Abandoned Lot
—Joe Massey


Bees inscribe the fog
& funnel
into plum blossoms

that barb the abandoned lot's
chain-link border.


I mean, goddamn, I want to funnel and inscribe shit. I want to hem things and pitch them. It's a way to see the world that is heavy with respect, as if everything were due a perfect record — and why not?

And the other part is spatial movement, where the camera goes, if I'm allowed to sound retarded. Check this out:

—Joe Massey


the curtain.


You never even know where you are until you're implicated by the last line. Or that's what I thought. First I read it with someone behind the curtain, a conscious agent I wasn't expecting when the poem began. But it's just as easy to strip out any lingering human identity and simply watch the curtain open. Hell, you can even enable the consciousness of the sounds, call it their little tromp: a missive from the t in "Next" to the t in "curtain," wound through a couple tailing s's to knock on the two t's of "scent" and "parts" before opening "the curtain."

Of course, other more venerated and articulate folks have spoken about the linguistics of Joe's poems, and what a good salad-maker he is, and what a fine fellow he is to have in a knife fight.

So I won't get carried away. Suffice to say that despite all the sounds working in steeltrap matricies, Joe is not just an audile. The craft of the poem above comes from how the poem works and changes and still works, on visual levels, sonic levels, and even trap-door levels (where the words are signifying something deeper, something in a well somewhere). This craft is like using words for all their meat, a certain solemnity. But I can't figure out, I guess, ultimately, if it's for reverence of the words that Joe uses them so well, or reverence of the referents, because he wants to serve his subjects. I don't think these two loves are in "competition" — cellophane bags are just as beautiful as the word cellophane — but there's something there. Another property line, maybe. Another pair of something staring at one another across that line, kinking together or sharing burrs.

I will stave off any more comments and just direct you to scoop up the book. It is like buying tiny contact lenses for the entirety of your perception, lenses made of sugar glass and strands of silk.



no, mostly, i just smell my fingernails, she said




ESQ, pH.D,

341 RBI

As of midnight tonight.

Now that he is twenty-one, Bryan can legally imbibe spirits and run for the position of Universal Well-Endowed Bovine, or Mega Cow. We are all very anxious.


NOÖ [five] is online! (and I have new poems out)

NOÖ [five] is online!

Print copies coming soon.

Also: Erica has posted an interview with me and done it up with lovely visuals and style.

All sew: I have two (old/new/revised) poems out in the brassiest named e-zine ever: melancholia’s tremulous dreadlocks. Why is this cool beyond cool? I am in it with Barbara Jane Reyes! Slam damn. If I may quote a too-long part of her poem:

from Barbara Jane Reyes's "in the city, she transcribes a composite of impossible lovers" :

"so do you have the time to reach into your body and find your heart a murder
of crows, your heart an opening in a barbwire fence, your heart a memory of
snowdrift, your heart an elegy to your former self, your heart a trickster
god in disguise, your heart a freeway offramp, your heart a scratch in the
vinyl of your favorite slow jam, your heart an empty tank of gasoline, your
heart a postmodern literary masterpiece, your heart mislabeled as a
hollywood blockbuster, your heart a murderer's insanity plea, your heart an
angel opening his eyes, your heart a thicket of bamboo, your heart a bullet
train, your heart hunted to extinction, your heart a prayer for the
departed, your heart an abstract poem, your heart a string of freshwater
pearls, your heart a broken swingset, your heart a sticky dive bar in the
bad part of town, your heart a dead language, your heart not a creation
story, your heart the understatement of the year."


good discussion

Jessica Rowan is hosting one among us Ashland tykes over at her blog. Feel free to chime in with accounts from your town. Extra points for total subscription to the authority of narrative.

We need to mention, I think, the two big populist poetry beasts: cowboy poetry and slam poetry. These draw crowds that would bust the AHS auditorium. Yet don't receive a lot of press (that I can see anyway) when we post-post-fencepost-postoffice-avant-Avons thinks about public readings (or anything).

Less $20 tickets in these worlds too.

But also ugly issues of coddling approachability, numb reinforcement of pre-existing values surrounding poetic accomplishment, ear candy and myth candy, pretty much brazen cotton-candy entertainments. Or are they? Shit if I know. Should we ask why they work so well?

P.S. NOÖ will prolly be out tomorrow. Along with Erica's very kind interview with me.


they will lean that way forever

Blue Jeans For Sale in the Trailer Window

and pour from the parked Airstream
like tubes orphaned off the grid.

We have come with these sodas
of mint and marmalade, these
somewhat easy parallels to Rome,

to blame a billion barrels
of banana pudding, wafers mixed
with cardboard and soybean oil,
hours gifted to nutrition design.

We blame much of what we eat
from Tupperware at one or two,
a window open on bats and trains,
a wind more cowboy than a pearl button.

And everything is stalked by antique shops.
They clomp past streetlights, touting whale nets.

Someone moves a spoon past dentures,
the years down on their shoulders like
hands. Then swallows. Bottoms out.

The hands on your shoulders like
listen, no, listen: we are a
flicker thing, a thing kneaded in-
to an aggregation of area codes,
familiar restaurants and hymnal hooks.

Wait, this is a true thing that once
heard may not fit the provision of hope:
picnic groves capped the trolley lines.
Then carousels. Okay. But then chalk.

And were they razed to fill now
with trailer sales? Sails to tarp?
Is the freeway a strobe of blinkers?
Will the turnoff lanes sag and give way?

And who then will scavenge the axles?
The airbags? The blues? Dawn, dawn,
you will not miss how sure we woke.


unsuspecting liar would you park here near the fire

More names. Name poems. Poem names.

Heather Has Always Moved Away

Trust only the brisk, the spirit
with a little bit of sputter behind
it, the others under the same rain.
It's odd to head for another's awning.
But Heather, I miss you like a roadtrip
leaks music, and I thread my legs through
the fire escape bars to listen for operas
from the cats, their secrets of claw sweat.

We do, we do to daydream of the snag
that will elude us still, come next
October, next ban on leaf burning
lobbied for by your biddy neighbors
and their chimney milk like new Pope smoke.
The mailman knows them and won't say shit.

We want, we want to daydream of the knowing
why the bomb crams like a toothache into
Mesopotamian cobble chinks. Heather,
they have carpet in the porta-potties,
and I have flushed what others install.

God put stinkbugs under my bike brakes
to scare me over my handlebars, while
they say kids these days mistake lists
for substance, and I say bullshit and
lick pavement from my elbows and who knows
along with quartz and tar how much errant hair.

Heather, our community theatre did the Wiz
with four of the original munchkins,
but I don't know what to think of that.
Play intermission feels like you crawled
for a pee out the back of a dream. But
who are these children in line, giggling?

Heather, the most beautiful I've yet to
feel was in an emergency waiting room,
where I watched an old man fling backwards
from his walker like fuck it into the
tiles. You can feel a little or a lot
or a variety or nothing, though more
if you still go in for that caroling shit.

Heather, you hear tabbies like the voice
of an other. Or two. Even better. I want you
to tell me a nightmare about jousting giraffes
or catching bird flu, and I want to remember it
under my nails. Please do, so much do I want to
dream up the yous of how flab scrapes nipple.

But still will the night clank, and still
will the night cram us all sausage meal
into its bus huts and the buses between.
I am just a wish vendor low on pennies,
but come on Heather, come on in and in.
Out from the goofy jail of the bones
you know, in for the vessels you don't.