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
for a beer or some tea
downstairs, white stone
walls echo low
rain & gas
but the shop shut
w/the year and I'm here
the trains past
the highway here
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:"
and ham and cheese
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:
in every room
big socks old
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.
at 6:13 AM