Phil Hall

copyright ©Phil Hall, 2005

& coming toward us out of the fog
 is the uncoupled next train of everyone
southbound to the U.S. tonight

 we can run into the cornfield
the so many stones of us lunging
 the so many hands of us clear
popping the sockets of the dry stalks

 until it seems the fog has bones
that are pioneer documents
 being shredded & then absorbed
into the fog we are gulping

 as we turn to listen to the lengthened roar
think of all the times over the years
 we have noticed our own reflections in windows
& looked away or through ourselves

 at what is really there
a stack of transparencies
 the stills of an animated short
two cadavers named Adam & Eve

 our first & last selves – frozen
we dyed their insides orange & blue
 thinly sliced them crown to heel
& photographed each slice

 sped up in sequence
the body comes at us like art
 as we hurtle through
listen to them all back there

 crying to be prized free
from the blown rust dahlias
 of the tail lights in the fog & the high beams
screening wide against cotton-batting

 soon we will hear the local sirens
& scream to be casualties among them

Notes on the Poem

Like the most compelling of dreams, Phil Hall's "OUR LITTLE CIVIC IS TOTALLED LOVE" veers from the simple to the labyrinthine. It combines straightforward imagery paralleling a troubled relationship, but is also rich in details and effects. It follows murky dream logic, yet is shot through with moments of lucid reality. The most powerful of dreams often encompass a sense of impending doom and one's helplessness to escape it, and Hall captures that vividly from the outset. A train is bearing down out of the fog on a disabled car, and even leaving it and running into the surrounding fields might not save the unhappy couple. Much here suggests the alienation of the couple, including: " we have noticed our own reflections in windows & looked away or through ourselves" not to mention the volumes spoken by "two cadavers named Adam & Eve". Even the tiniest elements speak most tellingly to the nature of this poem. For example, one small comma or its absence makes a significant difference in the title. Rather than "OUR LITTLE CIVIC IS TOTALLED, LOVE" - the car is destroyed, but I still have a modicum of affection for you, my love - it's just "OUR LITTLE CIVIC IS TOTALLED LOVE". The destroyed car *is* our destroyed love. Even the miniscule indent and skew to the lines gives the overall poem a jittery, wavering feel to it, as if the poem is starting to crumble just as what it depicts is coming apart.

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