Wings of Desire / BY AMY KING
This is what it sounds like outside,
fat geese and guinea hens holding hands.
I am 31, which is very young for my age.
That is enough to realize I’m a pencil that has learned
how to draw the Internet. I explain squiggles
diagramming exactly how I feel and you are drawn to read
in ways you cannot yet. Slow goes the drag
of creation, how what’s within comes to be without,
which is the rhythmic erection of essence.
Life’s little deaths, petite orgasms, as the French nearly said
but never came to. Feathers outstrip the weather
as we stand with binoculars inquiring how
winged creatures can hold their blood to warmth
without a proper insulation system overlaying circulation.
That is, sans fat and simple wooden bones with hair glued on.
Mostly though they pulsate on the horizons of backlit vision,
where we only meet the subways with handshakes,
the rainbow filters of downloaded electronica,
the telephone poles as archaic checkpoints to past cultures.
They don’t have screens to seek their cues in.
We drift from one culture to another and fight
the stitcheries of racism, classism,
anti-Muslim terrorists among us,
with overlaps in the complete dis-ease our bodies
settle into for next to no resistance.
So we create something else.
As in, roughshod moments of fake hate
will position a fluid hello of death rattles
that settle for the injunction of existence and state:
Here am I made manifest by not being you,
by not going in the same unsteady destination,
by not asking the questions or repeating
the paintings that came before me,
by not singing in the register of your bubble baths
as you hug that person close in a wish to outlast
bullets, even as the light leaves your eyes
just a little next time we overlap paths.
So the hens and geese make us think in terms of help
outside, how they flap and move with fat ease in front of trains,
across the chopping block, to the hungry winters of final leviathans,
even as they land just so on the wires above us,
and we go on complaining, murderous, too far out, unspoken.
Like the man said and the woman toasted, this poem is a stream of hot verbs, adjectives, and metaphors that link the perennial quest for self-definition with the blunt truths about realizing that the world is merely an unsolvable phenomenon that cares less of our unique personalities and exists only as a plain where other self-defined entities meet and learn to get along and love or to further dig in their teeth, gnash their respective rows of teeth and fight, with bricks, with bottles, with sex, with words.
It is a struggle either as negotiation or war sans army or navy, the playthings of the interior world come into the waking life, and those of us with the habit of insisting that first thoughts are the best and most accurate find out rapidly or in drawn-out decades that it is not enough to express yourself or exclaim your philosophy of the moment to an existence that is abstract and other, it is more a matter of being yourself in the midst of circumstances that don't know your name, of relating less theory to the community around you and more of the insight of lived experience, of having been wrong and right in equal measures over the years and finding a true irony that allows you and the world to lean closer together as if to kiss, to hug, to rejoice in the presence of people and places that don't repel you with secret identities and unspoken alternate plans. Amy King is a fevered search not for the absolute, for the genuine.
What I love about Amy King's poems is the collisions she sets forth, the speed of her connections, how often her observance of the commonplace strikes a target, how fluidly accurate her remarks are, how truthfully dumbfounding the ironies are. "Wings of Desire" is all of this, of course, a debate between those parts of the self that want to rule an interior perfection where it is always elegance at a whim, and then those other elements of personality that look out the window of the soul to a world that it wants to be a part of, to be in love with, to conquer, to change and to merge as one with. Hers is a detailed Baedeker guide at a little over the legendary 45 RPM; it's hardly a matter of noticing telling details of the constructions, social and material, that form the resemblances between our Ideal Types and their expression on the Physical Plain, this is also a series of voices from inside the perception that sees the flaws in the design, the dysfunction of the results, the turmoil the best intentions create. Here is poetry about shaking your head, running your hands through your hair, gathering your wits, and deciding, after road-testing your theories for decades, to be yourself, finally, unashamed of your talent, unembarrassed by your desires. You cease to be a problem to solve. Like a poem, you do not mean. You are.
Amy King is fast and blunt and writes in lovely, magnificently tight lines that are something like the quicksilver bebop of Parker, the modal transformations of Coltrane, the hard-shovel digging of a McLaughlin; in all this accelerated, exciting revelation, though, is tenderness, the center of the heart that is at war with its own contrary impulses, a consciousness that seeks the true center of being in the eyes of others it aims to be connected to. King's is a poetry of that desire and those mad flights. Her poems are about love and touching, groping, kissing, caring, finding a truth beyond words that cures the senses. Her poems are manic and magic and the sort of thing that gets me thinking and back to the keyboard, writing my own crazy language.