Prestidigitatious Verse: Enjoying the Trip of David Blaine’s ANTISOCIAL

(Published by OW Press, 2009.

The author’s bio at the end of this book notes that this is not the magician of the same name. Yet, David Blaine, the poet, plays with words the way I imagine the other David Blaine plays with cards or silk scarves. His agile manipulations nearly defy physics and the results are surprising, mystifying, and sometimes downright magical.

Blaine revels in the double entendre: In “Guns and Butter” he describes a love affair with oil, the “hydrocarbon medusa,” as a “crude relationship.” In “Child” he says, “the remainder of you perhaps buried / as dust motes drift into a dune / across the top of some deserted windowsill” and we might not even notice the sleight of hand that connects “dune” with the desert of the “deserted windowsill.”

Extended references lurk around the corners of lines like rabbits made to disappear, yet you know they’re still there, somewhere. In “Allen and Jack,” Blaine has Kerouac reincarnated as Willie Nelson (“On the Road … Again”), then later sneaks in a line from “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

But these pages are not merely games and verbal dexterity. You can feel the depth of thought and passion flowing below the surface of most every poem. Blaine takes on issues from the social, political, religious and environmental front-lines. Never beating you over the head, his attack is more subtle and fun to watch – like a blade eased gently through the slot in the brightly-painted box he’s put you. In “The Usual Suspects,” we hear of hands that “sign the orders,” “pull the trigger,” “deal in currency,” “swing the hammer,” “place the nails,” and perform a host of other heinous crimes. We then are given the revelation that all of these hands are ours. And with that, we are successfully sawn in half.

There’s much in the poems of Antisocial that describe an entire world sawn in half. Dead soldiers, starving children, drunks, prostitutes, saints who’ve lost their goodness, Judas’ pointing finger, Dick Cheney’s lies and vitriol, and “a thin man [who] cries so people won’t notice it’s raining.” However true all of this is, we can take comfort in the stoically existentialist wisdom of Blaine’s “Terminal”:

I have this suspicious feeling
that in the end,
at the pearly gates,
it’s all going to turn out
to be fake, worn
and shabby.
But still,
I’m trying to enjoy the trip.

And what a trip it is.

– Marc Beaudin, September 2009

About marcbeaudin

Poems, plays, books, roads, trails.
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