Sunday, July 16, 2017

Alejandro Escudé: A Bird, A Prowler

This is another episode of  "Poetry: I just don't get it..." A series where I post a poem or group of poems by one author, followed by anything the author wants to say about the work. This time around it's a poem by Alejandro Escudé. 

I met Alex when we were both in the writing program at University of California, Davis. He was in poetry, I was in fiction. But since I came to the school as a poet-who-wanted-to-write-fiction, I took a poetry workshop the first quarter and was introduced to Alex's work.  

During that workshop he was working on an autobiographical sonnet series, detailing his family’s journey from Argentina to Los Angeles. I really liked that sequence, and so I was happy it ended up as the opening sequence in his book of selected poems: 
winner of the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Press Book Manuscript Award.

Recently, while looking for his recent poems online, I found "A Bird, A Prowler" and thought I'd share it here. 

A Bird, A Prowler

In the spaces that govern
you are often told to stop wandering.
The trees I mean, their very presence
and how it is always about filling in,
as a child might fill in a coloring page
of a dinosaur—the mighty are mighty
because they avoid asking
the essential questions, such as
where will this road take me?
And more, asking provokes a certain
sickness, the arc of a naked drone,
the burial of the chord, the night
and its imaginary plenitudes;
I recall waking once to the sound
of a scratching window, a bird? A prowler?
The sound was a language,
and I interpreted it to be the hand-claw
of a god. It said, beneath me
there’s a hollow that can only be filled
with time, and time is soul-less.
Time is mathematical milk suckled
from the teat of star-cows. It figures,
I remember thinking, and then
went about my open-mouthed snoring,
a religious mood shifting over me
like that of a pirate or a priest.

(Previously published in Compose


I once read an interview with Billy Collins in which he talked about the first line in a poem being like an opened door. In other words, a poet should invite a reader into the poem. I have drifted away from this type of aesthetic thinking. My opening lines are almost always only what I consider to be solid poetry. It could take the form of the sound, the syntax, or the expression itself. I avoid opening my door. This is personality-based. I have a theory that those of us who wholeheartedly accept humanity become narrative writers, while those who are more suspicious, not misanthropic, yet cautious, end up writing in more abstract ways. 

As far as the plot of the poem, this scenario actually occurred. There was a scratching sound at my window in the middle of night. No explanation. It was one of those strange experiences that happen when one is not really aware of being completely awake. I remember feeling proud though, proud that I wasn’t frightened like a child and consciously avoided trying to solve the scratching. Whatever was scratching was going to continue scratching. I just stayed in bed and enjoyed the mystery. This led to an attempt to not only describe the event but to a sort of meditation on what type of person would inevitably seek the source of the odd, slightly alarming noise. 

In other words, I am not one of those people who make sure everything is colored in within the proverbial human coloring book. Those who also refuse to ask what I consider the appropriate questions. The “road” is probably a bit of an allusion to Robert Frost. These people are also blind. They live their life in a subconscious manner that prevents them from being open to mystery and therefore, in my opinion, short-sighted in empathy and sensitivity in general. 

The lines in the poem about time are filled with existential anxiety. For me, as a poet, the most important thing we can do as human beings is insist on the mystery of existence while exhorting and defining authenticity and meaning. It’s a sort of “fuck you” to the possibility that time might just be “soul-less.” Therefore, be a pirate or a priest. Avoid those people who seek to computerize everything, those who consciously manipulate, or those who seek a nearly inhumane perfection.

Alejandro Escude


Links to My Earthbound Eye
and other more recent poems, 

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