039.1: Brian Trimboli:: from The First Ape 039

Brian Trimboli's poems from the series The First Ape follow a tradition of poetry, literature, and film concerned with the origins of the human race. Works of this kind by contemporary authors tend towards a few significant problem areas. First, the artist can venture into the territory of the didactic. "THIS IS WHERE ORIGINAL SIN CAME FROM," or, "THIS IS WHO WE HAVE TO THANK FOR GRANTING US THE CAPABILITY TO WILL FIRE." Second, the problem of overused or reiterated a myth can become a cliché. Its value (like the cliché) is in borrowing from symbol, shared narrative, gesture, and archetype in order to give a megaphone to the otherwise unspeakable but true. Myths are a part of every significant poet's work to some degree, so much of the value is in the artistic treatment of the same old story. The third problem is that the artist's treatment of this fuzzy pre-history runs into the obscure. Perhaps it suffices to say that because the idea of our race's pre-history is too immense, the compulsion to resort to the understatement of symbol, image, or archetype is expected.

The speaker in Trimboli's "The First Ape" is well aware of these risks and turns them into opportunities. His dramatic power turns an otherwise textbook case of anxiety of influence into a game. Like the Romantic poets of Coleridge or Blake, who often questioned the "tragic" nature of the creation and Edenic myths, Trimboli's sense of humor or wit never destabilize when addressing otherwise daunting subject matter. Take one of his little poems, for example:

We were specks of dust in debris. I’m sorry,

I was spared the burden of the subjective. Last flowers

for eight-hundred billion miles, said the sign in our garden.

Dear oasis of the cosmos, can you hear yourself breathe?

Because I have replaced our eyes with topaz

the wind coming off the ocean smells like my wife.


If any of the "red zones" I mentioned previously inhibit this poem, it is certainly not the reiteration of myth or didacticism. If obscurity exists, then it willfully incorporates the red herring or the non-sequitur into the poem in order to better give emotional and charm to Trimboli's persona, and there is a courage here to the way this speaker, poem after poem, takes on large subject matter with a smile as wry as that on a hobo-clown who has pilfered the keys to the liquor store. Cody Todd

from The First Ape


*

Welcome to the circus; we are constantly mourning.

Every year, a child is crushed when the gates are opened

or trampled beneath the horses’ hooves while riding our carousel.

The leaky gas pipes converge beneath the Big Top

and once every five or six years someone falls asleep

near them. I’m not saying you’re not welcome here.

The cotton candy will keep you from growing old. The dunk-tank

and raffles are free. With the exception of the opening ceremony

it is peaceful as heaven, as we wait for next year.




*

What I am saying is this; there is a number so large

it is abstract. That number also fits inside another.

We are all just varying levels of small. Cold night 


to be a star, says the moon to a pulsar. I am warm

as a hiccup, says the pulsar back.

There are conversations going on we cannot hear. 




*
 
My wife and I gather weeds in a nearby field.
 
At home, she boils the water, and I tilt the spoon.
 
Daffodil soup in the mouth of our child.
 
December resembles a marrow white bone,
 
we dream chicken skin and dark beer.

We swallow stones the size of quarters.
 
This is how hungry we are. This is how full.




*

The plants were baffled when I began to grow legs.
 
The trees even more so, when I began to walk.
 
I lost touch with the elk when I grew these horrible thumbs.
 
It’s no wonder my brother and I banded together, hairless

and filled with curiosity. I thank the unequivocal birds.
 
They watched us skeptically, and stayed out of reach.
 
Dear funeral pyre, dear six-feet deep in the earth.
 
Wasn’t sentience enough we had to become sapient?




*

Dear Persephone, the beauty of a molecule

is in its changing. Have you ever seen

so many sunflowers? The BQE scatters

petals like flakes of skin. We write

about death to help us feel it. The rain

as anything but melancholy. Dear Yahweh,

I have discovered the art of naming.




*

I am the unused bullets, I am the broken rifle.

Dear bunker beneath the sand, I am coming.

We’ve been at war since Babel;

I believe peace is a convenience of language.

Of course we have a word for impossible.

We speak so many dialects the mouth stutters.




*

We were specks of dust in debris. I’m sorry,

I was spared the burden of the subjective. Last flowers

for eight-hundred billion miles, said the sign in our garden.

Dear oasis of the cosmos, can you hear yourself breathe?

Because I have replaced our eyes with topaz

the wind coming off the ocean smells like my wife.