Friday, November 16, 2007

Poem: Ed Roberson

Ed RobersonOn Wednesday, as part of his quarter-long visit (too brief!) at the university's Center for the Writing Arts, Ed Roberson (at right, in Harris Hall) delivered a short talk entitled "Ecopoetics in City Eclogue." I've been recapping various talks I've attended for much of the fall, but I won't try to summarize this one: instead, I'll just urge you to purchase or check out a library copy of City Eclogue, which Atelos Press published in 2003, and immerse yourself in Ed's work. You won't get to hear any of his wonderful anecdotes, such as how he used to regularly swim with the porpoises at the Pittsburgh Aquazoo, or how, when exploring the upper Amazonian jungle in Ecuador, he, his fellow explorers and his Native guides saw that the rainwater was flowing upwards into the valley and they all decided to pitch a tent on the river banks and just sleep, so that they would at least slake their exhaustion even if the water carried them off--to their likely deaths. Thank the gods it didn't. There's also a lot of Newark and urban New Jersey in this collection (and others of Ed's), as well as Alaska, the Caribbean, western African, and all the other places he's traveled, refracted through his ecopoetic sensibilities and singular singing style,w hich once you start listening to it can cast a spell. A few weeks ago after his reading, I suggested that I would post one of his poems that just kept tolling in my consciousness, and so here it is, about the young man with the "mismatched" (or as we used to say, "mix-match") shoes. You can probably guess the young man's outcome, as I did and Ed confirmed; "Standing Strong" is thus an elegy as well, though this is clear, I think, in the concluding stanzas.


He wore the mismatched shoes he said in style
when one of your boys was gunned and it could
go either way and you wanted to say
you were with him step for step still tight.

When I asked what each either of the way
was he said it wasn't nothing just mismatched
shoes no more shamanic a dressing up than that
as if he could not see who sees to

wear what he seizes on as medicine
from here from standing strong canonical
incantation and station of the street
for keeping on his feet washed by the hands

of black angels of pavement of dark roads
towelled in lynch linen basins of shadow.

He wore his mismatch with the dead as night
a night like living sun among these shades
of dragging down hooked up with even darker;
each star a stare down a bore of light,
each flare of gunshot bull's-eyed lights a hole
through the gang of hours from start to finish of

a life until that blue blocks out a sky,
the night crimes pile their empty chalked off
figurines prizes into a dawn

He wants to walk away from this.
This rough
odd luck how much in his make up brought
-- walking away from rope irons the capture –
up through him
his hair the glide to his feet
the tendency to go fu'thuh in life Somewhere
a couple decent pair of shoes

Copyright © Ed Roberson, from City Eclogue, Berkeley: Atelos, 2003.

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