Runoff fed the dead lake From paycheck to paycheck the month was fortified with a balance in the bank Payday was the start of looting objects or objectives Whatever emerged as an alert on the virtual calendar was brought to sunlight out of the dust whorls like all bromides How much is in the tank, a friend asked After the credit denial I am small in my shirt A wing is stuck in the trachea of the worker’s blower This act of not-sinking is confessed through this comment box and its request for comments Play the fife lowly
Once I built a well: a thing, ocular at top, open, freestanding: flat rhyolite plinths a base for larger rounded granite stones, hauledfrom the high desert, narrowing up to an uneven lip. At its center autility bucket and a little fisted electric pump—a cord tailing to anoutlet. I adjusted. The volume, attuning to organic clatter, sounding true-stream, faux primitive: the plastic precision of a whisper pump, asthe water lit over the rock: a noise, of pissing into an empty plasticutility bucket. I owned that pish bucket, and the draught from it was drinkable.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard Greenfield
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
The elegies that comprise Richard Greenfield’s third book of poems, Subterranean, open the rhetoric of the form in new ways, creating a site of grieving that transcends a focus on the death of the father. These elegies, lyrical and yet absorptive of contemporary political economic discourse, juxtapose the collapse of hyper-economies against the collapse of ecosystems, exploring the overlap, or edge effect, of liminal encounters between the living and the dead, between the city and the wilderness, between the human and the animal, and between the haves and the have nots. In a raw counter music to these elegies, Greenfield also uses the method of transcription—unedited recordings made on long walks—to create a sequence of associative, anxious, rambling, and digressive meditations bridging these harrowing divides and exposing the loneliness of grief and empty promise of connection in the age of late capitalism. Is elegy an empty or arbitrary promise of connection between the living and the dead? As Greenfield asks, “Do you want to call someone?” The human voice, transmitted through the cell phone, becomes a spectral voice and streams “up from the basin to the peak and its antenna and striates and sieves through solid structures to arrive in the spiral of the ear of anyone.”
“With transcriptions, lyric interludes, and thick description, Richard Greenfield speaks to, for, and about the dead, and in particular his father, lost to the larger orders of the kingdom of the gone. The poems in Subterranean sing through all of it reminding us that poetry has a vital role to play in the act of living and dying. It’s gorgeous and heady work.”
“Like oracular and elegaic poets from Alice Notley to Itō Hiromi to Whitman, Richard Greenfield holds out to us a fistful of blooms at once lotusy and razory; his verses change the vision and cut the palm. Subterranean is a katabasis for the dispossessed, mourners and migrants who have not been granted a trip to Elysium but must instead tread and retread the American desert border: “giant yucca strained the ejecta/I had no tactic.” This book reminds us that elegy does not help us reach a horizon line but, by obsessively mapping the distance to it, increases that unbreachable distance. The grief of Subterranean, then, is that it is ultimately terranean.”
“One of the most enduring specters haunting American Letters for over 150 years has been Emily Dickinson. From her fiery lineage, poets as diverse as Lorine Niedecker, Fanny Howe, Rae Armentrout, and other intrepid inner rebels have kept the revolution of the continuous critique of prefabricated self-&-society going strong. And out of this feast of plucked flowers and winnowed seeds, comes yet another scuffed up sensitive soul ready to not just “take flight” (in either a romantic or “avant” mode) but rather, foot-steady to burrow deep into the soil of materialist deliverance. Tending to the roots of our epoch, until the scowling winds of Vain Authority subside, Richard Greenfield (poet of uncommon touch, deft discrimination, fortitude, and tactical self evacuation), is carting over a barrel of wicked hooch for us tonight. Let’s give this tome a real read, huh?”