from Rising, Falling, Hovering

by C.D. Wright

In front of a donut shop         someone’s son is shot dead

A witness on condition of anonymity

The slow open vulgar mouth         drawing on a cigarette

In a face once called Forever Young

Now to be known as Never-a-Man

Gone to the world of the working and the prevaricating

of the warring         world of drywalling of lousy test scores

of fishing from a bridge on a brilliant afternoon

                            belt buckle blown undone

 

 

Recollect reading to her boy

reading to him in bed         overcome herself

with sleep as if drugged or slugged         then jabbed up again

Come on         Keep reading         Don’t stop         Don’t ever stop

like she was saying         Beauty cannot         she cannot marry

the Beast         and tonight as on all other rose-scented evens

He stumbles         the Beast he stumbles         from Beauty’s empty chamber

In agony         he goes in agony         the fur of his fingers

smoking         until it’s her boy he is the one saying

exclaiming         Yes Yes he will he will marry the Beast

                            until he is the one who conks out

 

 

as a light pole struck by a drunken car

And suddenly it’s raining like plastic

When she stumbles at last from the room

he is the one         who shakes himself awake

and yells         Protect me         and she is the one

who promises exclaiming         Yes Yes she will         I swear

if it kills me I will         as once the mother

of Forever Young shot in front of the donut shop

must have sworn         if it killed her she will         a boy

              So quiet         the report heard from his kin

You wouldn’t even notice him on your electric bill

              Over there         it’s a different world

              Desperate to be rejoined to this one

Notes on the Poem

CD Wright's Rising, Falling, Hovering wields much to hold us in its thrall. This excerpt from the title series of poems - each distinct in style and layout - offers stark, unforgettable images and heartrending juxtapositions of tenderness and brutality. It's all rendered with a spaciousness on the page done simply but strikingly with line spacing, and made unsettling and haunting with extended gaps between words. The layout of the poem suggests how the poem might also be read. Even just "read aloud" in our head, the line spacing lends a slow, measured pace to the poem. Coupled with the gaps between words and phrases, though, is the pace measured or, in fact, catatonic? Are the gaps shocked silences, or indicative of a struggle to contain emotion, or to regain composure and one's ability to articulate one's despair and rage? Considering some of the poem's subject matter, do those gaps create a bullet-riddled effect? The space between verses is disquietingly vast, too. While you seek to discern how they're related, the pieces do not touch. That separated, disembodied sense is reinforced by images such as "[t]he slow open vulgar mouth" (not a person), "as a light pole struck by a drunken car" (not a person in sight) and, most vividly, "belt buckle blown undone" (no longer a person attached to it). On this platform of spaces, pauses and gaps, Wright places powerfully contrasting scenes. The soft and precious moments of a mother reading to her child are troublingly bookended by violence: someone shot dead, a car hitting a light pole, even the desperation shading to menace of the Beast in the fairy tale. Is Wright telling us that there is space enough around innocence to buffer the harshness of the world ... or that space is potentially vulnerable and permeable?

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