For the common folks are like the leaves
of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.
—Scarecrow, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Ex cathedra, entropy
Overcomes the final leaf.
Trembling now, the fulcrum yields,
Noiseless breaks the withered stem,
Tranquil falls her cup-shaped form:
Death brings stasis, peace, and rest.
Winter is a general sleep:
Being is as vast as seem,
Now is not annexed by thens.
Even spondees of the guns,
Crisping just beyond the hill,
Cannot by their syllables
Stultify one bit the grace
Winter brings to every place,
Flake by flake and dream by dream.
Ariel, Returned Again
Throughout the text and about the margins,
There’s a mix: some gang signs, underlines,
Text notes and the inevitable pudendal figures
Added, it seems, for good measure.
I know this volume fond and well:
Four sheets still wave in a spell of Kool-Aid
Pink, the paper cover’s stiffed by packing tape,
While nobody dare decipher Daddy’s stains.
There’s Sir Blue Pen, who crosses away Mister
Black Ballpoint’s fading cusses, and Monsieur le
Stylo Rouge has a thoroughgoing habit of
Giving adverbs buckled substrata, and above
It all, The Earl of Pencil, it would seem,
Has been inspired to sketch his dreams:
A population boom of gravity-notwithstanding
Boobs which, oddly, are mostly
By the ones depicting the bees.
But that debate’s stagnated since at least
Three years past. I mend a rip, I flat a crease—
The same triple dog-ear I saw way back
When first I was hired to tend the stacks—
The folds return each time with Plath,
Her honest, thin, and beautiful things.
A fingernail falls like an acorn out
Of an October oak. Crumbs of doughnut.
Last month, a flat dry moth. Last year, a letter:
The pleading love, one inmate to another.
Intimate, sensuous, interior, thrillingly
Plagiaristic. It was so graphic, and I read it
In wonder before returning it to its fold.
“Contains ‘The Swarm,’” boasts the cover,
But the last four sheets were long hence severed,
Leaving behind just a short sort of shore
Between the page and burning world.
My thumb runs down the fuzzy length of scar—
This is the art of missing parts.
We all have our vague secrets:
Though in the back room one’s new in cellophane,
I’d rather just let this wonder circulate,
Despite its wear and tinkers profane.
Checked out ninety-nine times since ‘98.
Just across the yellow line,
Curried in the glare and rain,
The fat of the land for meat-flies,
Maggots, crows and trucker-treads,
Under time and by the way,
She ungathers and turns to mulch
In the cuts of the rumble strip
On the shoulder’s asphalt peel.
I don’t buy apotheosis,
And I don’t brake for road kill. Still,
Shocked that I had passed without mind,
I look to the mirror and watch
While the distance between us rocks
And she drowns in the sky’s mirage.
Sequitur & the mostly eaten apple leans ~~
A truck hauling watermelons and dirt
Tipped in the storm, embellishing the street.
The morning is lousy with its beauty:
Mud, ripe with red meat, cupped by stripes of green.
I find out, after, how an old man drowned.
Ontology and Early Poetry
For this third issue of Parhelion Lit, I am glad to present the above poems, and was easily cajoled by the editorial staff into writing a little about them, as well as their creative provenance. For some writers such as myself, whose history with writing is rather short and is rooted in a halfway anxious soil, that is to say that the following paragraphs risk a thorn or two of confessionalism.
Making poetry is a gothic claustrophobia. Meaning adjacent to meaning, thought twist-braided intricate into thought, line atop line atop language atop ambiguousness, silent spaces so deviled by polyvocality that they afford little space. Writing situated in often extreme circumstances of mad crowd or mad solitude that the mind is either over-broiled or near raw. And the strangle of images! To write is the radical act of insisting, “I, I have found which ideas ought to go where; I have navigated the sea,” and is therefore reserved for the sage—or for those whose blood is vibrant with a special chutzpah. One whose soul always feels like an awkward fit in most spaces is perforce ill-suited to attempt such an impolite thing.
Like being an uninitiated Texan plopped by some cachinnating demiurge smock-dob in the middle of an Asian grocery store. Wide-eyed at the jackfruit, smelling enoki like a flabbergast fool. The inescapable dividend is a sense of smallness: wonder, shot with confusion and horror—and the embarrassment of being found, foundering.
Or, so I figured. My wife avers that such a persuasion is the due of a wonderful Lutheran upbringing in a land with four thoroughgoing but temperate seasons, and a very nice education none too far from a J. Crew location. Her goading and encouragement, however, was no small part of the permission I required to start—for want of a better term—trying.
I do not know whence the other parts of the permission came. The hippocampus was feverishly masticating some Norton anthology (and some Lorde, Snyder, cummings, Baldwin, and suchwhat) while something a little deeper was trying to get out. Maybe what tipped the scales was Rachel Zucker saying on her Commonplace Podcast, “Just keep writing,” in episode after episode. Maybe it was a friend of mine smiling and relating that he had once tried writing poetry, opining then that I should try.
“Ariel, Returned Again” imagines a cross-section of a worn book’s life as it gets an unconventional treatment in a place where it is easy to forget to consider the presence of the text. Physical decrepitude, yes, but also measures of the somewhat cloying Plath-worship many of her readers exhibit I tried to deliquesce into the lines of the poem, along with some of the forces in the poems themselves. Fixation upon specific cares and tasks, a breathless tedium, the presence of prodding others, but above all, an otherworldly avidity for something ineffable that is neither life nor death nor self.
One of the earliest poems I put to page was “Entropy.” I learned of a family member’s death when I was encircled by forest. Winter was in an incredibly cold, windless lull, and broad clouds had turned evening into a high-contrast and sad replica of an Ansel Adams snap. I had holes in my gloves and shoes. I was upset—hating at that moment the cold bleak, my certain absence from the funeral, the hyænic clap of guns at the nearby shooting range I abhorred, and the huge oak tree I could see with its solitary leaf. Blood and emotion bonged in my temples a long while as the world darkened; but time etherizes emotion and there is some clemency in solitude. The leaf fell like a biology demonstration.
[Note: “Ex cathedra” connotes, essentially, “by the natural force of its office, and/or the authority thereof.”]
“Turnpike Doe” was initially meant as a poem contemplating a missed connection. Drafts later, maybe it still is.
The poem “Sequitur” is simply a poem begun while studying the way a mostly-gone honeycrisp loses its symmetry. (Or, in the case of more lopsided apples, its initial geometry.) Its spacing/alignment aspires to the tippy look of a fruiting body whose near-topple is something both unsettling and beguiling—the precarious and precious nature of depletion. What remains of its mesocarp is intentionally narrow and little. Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” comes to my mind for me: for months the poem was long and quite dense with English.
“Overnight,” too, found its first inspiration from a natural occasion. Recent aggressive flooding produced neighborhood scenes new to me. The poem grew, was cut down in size, and so it went.
As a novitiate of poetry, I am still in search of my sea-legs. The lines of these poems indeed betray a certain rudderlessness, but that is in accordance with my situatedness. Not entirely sure how or why inspiration comes my way, I take what I get and let it rattle around its chamber for a time until cohesion becomes possible. The poems are not constellated to form a particular unit, and their connections are nothing more sturdy than the triviality that they are cottons from the same gin. A gin prone to fearing that his every step is a cussed swashbuckle, or terrorized by the thought that he will write a poem about mastodons only to have it be understood rather as a poem about the meaning of alto saxophones.
My influences are divers, ungoverned, incomplete and unregimented. In addition to the above, and among others, I have found myself reading and re-reading the works of Olds, Limón, C.D. Wright, Danez Smith, Muldoon, Tyehimba Jess, T.S. Eliot, Rankine, Kevin Young, Ashbery, WCW and … hell, I’ve gone and made my list too long for civil company.
Communications and Political Science were my studies at The University of Minnesota. I have lived in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, & Minnesota. All cold states. I believe that I may be working to assemble my first collection of poetry.
Logan Wei and spouse live in the upper Midwest with their puckish quadruped. He has worked with patients, students and the homeless. Logan writes as solacing and natural means of seeking small matrimonies between reality and experience.
Although Logan’s poetry has appeared in Pedestal Magazine, Ink & Voices and others, he is in his own understanding an entirely unpublished poet.