094.1: Amaranth Borsuk:: The Cooper’s Sleep-Work & □: A Translation & Five Simple Machines 094

Not enough is written about machines. Not enough poetry, at least. In an era dominated by an engineering mindset—how can we most efficiently solve problem x?—poetry all too often retreats into pastoral modes. But Amaranth Borsuk’s poetry is different. In each of Borsuk’s three poems, readers will find a common fascination with machinery. Whether this fascination takes the form of a surreal and humorous dialogue between boat and water, a sudden lyrical evocation with the word “lockdown,” or five prose blocks exploring Homo sapiens’ claim to biomechanical fame (the opposable thumb, anyone?), machines haunt these poems. We don’t often think of the mechanical ghost inside the imagination: Borsuk’s work demands that we face the world of our creations and how this world has folded back into the very way that we think, live, and sing. After all, we derive the word “poet” from the Greek word for “maker,” and we are fortunate that Borsuk is a maker of such range and grace. Ryan Winet

The Cooper’s Sleep-Work

Bellowed out and bodying forth, the boat
set out to find its lucky keel. Without
you, I have no direction, it blubbed

across moss-sprung waves. The inlet let its
breath out, shaking fungal-white trees
on both banks like sugared lungs. The boat keened

for its keel: I feel so
much more hollow than I used to. I fill
with water each half hour and have to bail

myself out
. Skimmers with telescopic
legs clung to its boards, filling
the boat’s front grin—face of placidity
and drainage. The boat
wailed and went on, plugging its holes with mud.

□: A Translation

Salt king, for what did you walk,

for war or      dreams,

everyone as

nothing to you?

lake moon    milk tooth,

semaphore    lockdown

Five Simple Machines

The hand that had its work cut out for it was cut out for its work. Knuckling down on the desk, it curled to a tool not there, scissors that might replace pen with loop and lever, flexed: machinely precision—potential at rest.

The hand knew its rights, always ready to bite the dogs that fed it—stitched through with blue machismo, a need to fill emptiness. Peckish, it chiseled away at heavy matter, five limbs closed in, a flying wedge that broke down all resistance.

The hand had unhappy memories of mechanical disadvantage—times when friction with its partner kept it from its work. Saw wisdom in ignorance—increasing the distance between them allowed it to lessen the force with no discernible decrease in output energy. Pulled along the daily drill, the hand drank and dug, screwed down others’ thumbs to bring new pieces up. Inclined to let matters drop, it drove the wedge deeper.

The hand learned to raise and lower expectations, forget the feeling it was always about to leap. It learned to keep secrets, accept second-class status in the world of information, embrace its dangerous calling. It tried to be self-propelled, to stay in circulation, but its calculations were off—its shuffle step tuned the dial, but after a while no music came. No soft response would be pried up.

The hand was not whole; turnabout and torque had weakened its connection to the work. The hand neglected cardinal rules, had lost its match—it had been left—more and more force necessary to achieve the same effects. But the hand was not depressed. It had simply forgotten the metal sheen that drew it to screw itself up in the first place.