There are a good number of exquisite poems in +Cate Marvin
's Fragment of the Head of a Queen
, but given my proclivities, two poems stood out the first time I read the collection, and stand out still today. The first, "Scenes from the Battle of Us," has the following remarkable simile:
I am like a table
that eats its own legs off
because it's fallen
in love with the floor.
It also includes, in a sort of throwaway aside, the sentence "You can play the tourniquet." I love both of these constructions so much: the amazing juxtaposition of "play" with a medical technology for triage and constraint, and the idea of a self-cannibalizing piece of furniture.
My other favorite poem is titled, simply enough, "Postscript," and begins as follows:
We sure are tired, so long's the longing
we undertook. It would put you to sleep
to read the book of examinations, trials,
and speculations. Even the cattle minded
the haul we had in mind for them, lugging
the same records across and back the same
lands, as if we were lost in the ocean.
I am particularly keen on how these lines enact, formally, the sort of expository incompleteness contained in them. Until "in the ocean," a completed line of poetry avoid completing an actual sentence or bit of substance, and when you read the lines together, at the level of content, they exhibit a sort of indefinite deferral of reference, with many words that hint at specificity without ever arriving there (the book that explains everything, the haul we had in mind, the same records, the same lands, etc.).
I often note that the poetry I prefer is there to confound sense rather than make it, and these two particular pieces really do this well. The whole collection is worth reading, to be sure, but these two always receive a few read-throughs from me whenever I pick up Marvin's book.