001.2: William Stobb:: Absentia & A Natural History 001

If you look at the back cover of Nervous SystemsWilliam Stobb's debut collection and 2006 National Poetry Series winner—August Kleinzahler, the contest's judge, describes the poetry as: "Jittery, synaptic, wide-ranging—wildly ranging..." Odd terms to describe the sublime of any contemporary poetry, but after reading this collection, there is no argument here. Those of us in Los Angeles may have been (often numerous times) to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It is a good place for anybody, but a wonderful place for a poet. Stobb's work continually reminds me of the atmosphere of that place, where wonder and technology braid into a kind of helix, venturing towards the hazy and liminal space between possibility and impossibility.

Read the full intro by Cody Todd


all happening in an explosion—boat wake conducts evening light into many
      small geometries, a loose phone call, a little bold speaking enabled by
      distance between people 
saved in time, someone’s pigtailed daughter swings above the hedge—sunlight
      prisms the image—screen between surfaces like candle-lit water 
the murmurs they produce, waves, degrees by the small combustion of the wick
      they light—death a word as life 
as if more orbited than we thought a satellite spins in its array—upswing opens
      downswing closes the prism, now candle on moving water, satellite, fade 
if I’d been Native American I might’ve been Eagle Eye but for me it’s more of a
      mapping drone part—long charts of consequence kind of marine
      electronica font ripple off my shoulder as I withdraw 
scrim that holds original heat so it dissipates more slowly through weather,
      decades, forests, families 
the factory burn-off, certain windows kept lit after hours—the radiance bled
      through late season brush along the banks 
image times thought orbits sunlight in its daughter—saved prisms fade pigtailed
      screen candle water 
Patty says people tell story after story until the dead find a pathway 

in an afterwards flush, he opens the window—“I’m naked you know”—“Come
      see: the world froze” 
hedge the daughter above the image—save more—we candle someone’s array,
      downswing in lit water as if saved 
a barn heaved over in grass taller than the children exiting the minivan in green
careful in thinking of my dead friend, on such a day vole tracks end at the surface
      brush of owl wings—“no embarrassment in being born, no glory in it
too hard the screen between closes—remember my boy called you brudder?
      maybe all the sighs of this time whisper like you’re just napping in a side
      room at a party 
more orbited than we thought—the million worlds in your blood noticed you
      changing—white-gold shimmer on a vapor rim—then we heard you in the
      kitchen laughing a little through a slippery plate

A Natural History

                                                                                                  Canceled by virtue
of its own best qualities, the desert produced its idea.  Stretch mark faulting.  Salt
dome rising.  A pleasured region arches its back.  One day the Snake River
Canyon burst and five hundred valleys filled like kiddie pools.  
                                                                                                              Or are we
just having a bad weekend here?  Everything’s a joke? 
                                                                                                 I wanted a machine-
like transaction.  I wanted to make direct statements and then directly receive the
help those statements purchased.  But in warm interactions, more emotions come
through.  If nothing strikes you as off-kilter, then the person might be honest. 
I think of it as this place that became exactly what it wanted to be, like a very
confident child.
                                                                           Who shot Lassen?  No one knew,
so an Indian was invented—a magical rider, rifleman, dancing out of sight along
the ridge tops.
                                        It felt simple and good to talk about sex with J., but
dangerous, too, like swimmers playing happily before sharks attack. 
I’m in here writing this and you’re out there laughing still.
                                                                                                       Spiral and net
carved in tufa along lakeshore benchmarks caterpillared by sage.  Photos of Clark
Gable’s trophy trout in the Paiute interpretive center.  “He could sure play a
broken-down wrangler.”
                                                                 “Then I get to make a rule,” I began.  If
she could say “I’m coming with you and you can’t stop me,” then I could say
something absolute.  But she didn’t know what I meant, and I didn’t know what
rule to make anyway.                          
                                                                                                          Dated eleven
thousand, an artifact of no known purpose: three inch piece of antler, perforated
eighty times.  Given the demands of hunting and gathering, it’s hard to imagine
idleness, meditation maybe.
                                                                                  Who knows what’s going on
in another person’s head?  Like one hotel tower standing next to another one. 
People playing slot machines, watching TV, trying to get laid or get something
anyway to happen for real and quick.  The present has to make the future worth
                                                                    I’m having a good time, but I get tired
of listening to loud music and making jokes.  I’d like you to quietly look around
with me.  How alkali forms, floods, dries and cracks.  The city they build every
year and burn down.
                                                                Otherwise I worry about our friendship.