067.1: William Stobb:: Organism & Holiday 067

The first poem below from William Stobb begins: "To the extent I am invisible, I remain". Each of the poems below considers questions of existence and non-existence and what it means to remain living. The invisibility of the first speaker is his basis for remaining, but his visibility is the basis for our knowledge of his existence. The world of this poem is populated with beings trying desperately to find a space of existence: a cover band, a stripper, the Hollywood sign. Each of these players performs an act that attempts to ensure recognition of the other, whether it is through the medium of texting, dancing, or routinely being destroyed in films. These are all, along with the poet, the poem and the reader, "humbler items" that "go on reflecting, absorbing, emitting" in the quixotic quest for existence.

Or one might notice that the second poem, "Holiday," is bracketed by quotation marks. The speaker of the poem is not named, nor is the action of speaking addressed through a phrase outside the quotation marks such as 'he said.' These quotation marks remind us that we should be aware of the speaking-ness of poems, that every poem is bracketed by invisible quotation marks. By highlighting the act of speaking, Stobb both amplifies the poem and makes it more intimate. This is a conversation—no, a confession—offered to us, a momentary speech act that gives us as readers the responsibility of remembering and care-taking to ensure its continued existence. Andrew Wessels


To the extent I am invisible, I remain
aligned with nobility. Daily, I trust the body
to do what it can—blink and hum,
piss and shit painlessly. Compelling visions
of the future such as fragile
system, burning timeline, quiet void
can’t cancel this moment, mine
as much as anyone’s. Witness
dirigible overhead trailing commercial banner.
Cover band stranded and texting.
Stripper adjusts her mind frame
to rock hard because her man’s not paying
attention. Everything’s a startup.
Reset buttons invented us.
Both of his statements were undeniably true:
he brought me into this world
and could take me out, out, out
in the yard at night
amazed by the sky I tried
throwing a ball up out of a feeling
I now see as my wireless network to the stars
—ha ha Hollywood, your sign crumbles
in apocalypse movies while humbler items
go on reflecting, absorbing, emitting.


“At that time I was living
a kind of monastic life. In the morning
I would play a few notes on the piano
like a chime and watch out the window
the world unwinding. I no longer thought
about painting or the people
I had hurt and left behind.
If I controlled everything correctly
I could feel the peace of mind endings imply.

One fall day a cardinal was appearing
and vanishing and appearing again
on the poplar overhanging the street.
Its motion untied a ribbon
in the mist shrouding the distant bluff top.
Visibility diminished all morning until
the low sky unraveled into hail.
The storm became so fierce I imagined
windshields imploding all over town.
Had the bird found shelter
in the shredded poplar?
Or would I find its body tangled in maybe
the only mistake it ever made, the arbor vitae?

Then a van appeared at the curb.
A man emerged and, protecting his head,
dashed up my walk. He was in trouble
—fully exposed in a dangerous storm—
so I started for the door.
It would be unnecessary to invite him in.
And although he would neither speak nor ever be
identified by any authority, I felt a sense
of recognition. For a moment—
before he showed me things
I would willingly do to stay alive—
I felt at ease, as if lost in a holiday memory.
The stranger smiled naturally
and I said hello.”