[For a few days: frost]For a few days: frostremakes the lawn as frozen spines.I’m stepping on small bones.In these outlying partsstreets are named Whispering or Leaf.I’m leashed to a small companionwho leads me from one message to another,squats in the grass, rubsagainst a hydrant’s iron neck.I’m bundled in feathers,the downy air, to provewhat breed of animal I am.
[I keep receiving boxes filled with air,]I keep receiving boxes filled with air,delivered overnight by carrierswho do not knock or ring the bell.What it means to be modern—packages of breath in plastic pouches.I puncture them with a knifeto hear them gasplike someone learning of a death.
Copyright © 2019 by Jehanne Dubrow
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Jehanne Dubrow is the author of seven poetry collections, including most recently American Samizdat (Diode Editions, 2019), and a book of creative nonfiction, throughsmoke: an essay in notes (New Rivers Press, 2019). Her eighth collection of poems, Simple Machines, won the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award and will be published by the University of Evansville Press at the end of 2019. Her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Pleiades, and The Southern Review. She is an Associate Professor of creative writing at the University of North Texas.
"American Samizdat emerges slowly. It emerges like an animal emerging from a fog so absolute it could be mistaken for a wall. It emerges like that same animal erupting into consciousness as it clears the fog—an evolutionary leap!—only to discover that the fog was internal. The animal, a creature that already knows the world, must also discover the world: 'For a time, I missed the sharing / as it’s known, the communal // passing around of news, small bites / I used to take of other lives.' In American Samizdat, we discover our world."
—Shane McCrae, author of In the Language of My Captor
“'Numbness is another way / of turning off the news,' Jehanne Dubrow writes in her deeply moving, terrifying, and necessary new collection, American Samizdat. In this brilliant, book-length series, Dubrow somehow gets at the root of our collective anxiety in a disintegrating America where meaning is merely 'the last pink light / that glows above a fence' and '[a]n alternative to fact is vertigo, / the floor rising up to strike my face.' American Samizdat will last as a marker of early 21st century America, a 'nation terrified,' a nation fed by technology and led by a mad man. 'I remember,' Dubrow writes, 'when threats // were given colors, red severe, / orange that the risk was high. // Now there is no chart.'”
— Allison Benis White, author of Please Bury Me in This
"To say that Jehanne Dubrow's American Samizdat is a brilliant book would be to say the truth. But what does it mean? It means that we hold in our hands a book that combines lyricism with a sweep of a large historical vision. It means that strangeness of language here wakes us even if we put "stoppers in our ears" because even silence for this poet is a musical instrument. It means that in the couplets of this book clarity arises and the reader in America, the country that denies its own history, sees that 'point of Cassandra / is we struggle to stare directly at the light, its naked blaze.' Indeed. For me, Dubrow's brilliant book-long poem succeeds because it provides a myth for our time, a fable. How does she do it? 'To make a fable of this time, / I will say we were governed by a bird / who pecked decrees in the ground. Our park was a chaos of squawking.' Welcome to American Samizdat, dear reader. Behold the 21st century world."
— Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic