by Laurie Filipelli
Pub Date: March 1, 2013
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Here is a calendar full of long shadows, a guidebook of unlikely bursts of music, and we couldn’t ask for a better guide than this keenly perceptive, wry, plucky poet. In Laurie Filipelli’s Elseplace, as in Keats, we may not know if we wake or dream but that uncertain state blurs nothing, rather it clarifies the mysteries that are our befuddlements and salvations.
In Laurie Filipelli’s debut collection, lyrical prose poems that evoke the sorrows of the calendar year are juxtaposed with feisty odes that soar and float and sing and refuse to be tethered. Elsewhere could be anywhere, but Elseplace is brilliant and magical. It’s where the cat’s been when it reappears, it’s a place you have to squint to see, it’s a town that exists only when you name it, it’s the wig shop in Tyler, Texas, it’s Poem City (the wonderful book in your hand!), and Paris, Las Vegas, where the way to win is to forget what you want.
Part oracle, part anchor, the poems in Elseplace hover like the recurrent image of a balloon caught between imminences. Filipelli’s poems are driven less by containment than bafflement, by the ferocious tenderness of invention. For ultimately, these are love songs to maybe, to the “crooked O,” to “wind’s eye beginning to open.”
I’m carrying a melon, but I want it to be
a large fish, a lost coin, a flamingo pink,
inflatable, wrapped around a wrist. I want
to float in a sea of bright objects—
not beach balls, but the spectrum—
X-ray to atomic, the face of each Beatle
rendered cartoonish. There,
there, I squint. What else have I missed?
Out-takes from the last world rendered
in this sound a bit discordant. In retrospect,
really, have you had lunch was a greeting,
not a question. A woman walks past
a Pepsi sign and it changes to Coke,
the shadow of a man from a grim silhouette
to a spangled heart—two flags in the center:
Love, Death. The dog’s still sleeping.
On a postcard: petals. A lake stands still.
Above, suspended, two hot-air balloons. One shouts,
You’re heading in the wrong direction!
He speaks East/West. I hear Up/Down.
TAKE IT SLOW
First the waking from which I couldn’t sleep.
Then the sleeping from which I couldn’t wake.
Then a spirit point where a spirit entered
as a dog and shouted Who are you?
A brooch pinned to my stomach’s skin.
Sweet gaggle of girls, what are you
singing by the gorge on Sunday
in your cut-off shorts? Joy was a moment.
A man with no face pulls the card for good fortune,
sex, and love. Still in my night-shirt,
stuck like a fist, I’ll be groggy all day,
lost somewhere between dog bark and a river
refusing to move. Heat in my hands,
on the roof of my mouth, sometimes
a soft voice: Your soul is light. Who
would have believed it? But I saw a balloon
rising in the night, and I was dumb-struck.
I thought light meant a candle, a white bulb
swinging; it’s a wrist, cut-loose from a string.
Look at this. I am sad
because it snowed today, fresh
out of trash tickets, the walk
down the drive seems long
and slippery. It’s easy to cry
and easy not to. Telemarketers
never care. I ask them
kindly take me off your list. Why
is this so hard? Why do I stop asking?
The news is always far away,
and still farther a man forgets the trash,
not because he is busy, but because
to remember is a sign of weakness.
I could stop here and say we must
smell the proverbial roses,
or in this case trash, which is not unpleasant,
contained in cold. I could
there is always someone
who remembers too late, someone
who forgets in a purposeful way, and trash—
we have plenty of that.
SCENE FROM THE FEMALE INTERIOR
A cytologist blinks. How long
has she stared at these scraped worlds?
Papilloma could be a town in Spain
with a citadel, thunder, and small
sweet fruits. Night dabbed
with an iridescent sheen, and cancer
the palest constellation beneath which
cloistered women pray.
Curettage, then, was a French cut dress,
a jeweled neck, not a paper gown,
not a spoon that swiped the brightest star,
a gem unfastened. Flesh from sky.
Who waits now with encrypted hope
for an answer to return her?
I was sleeping with dragon claws for teeth
and nostrils flaring smoke. I was standing
at the checkout with two dark chocolates
and only a memory of my purse.
My bikini carved from American flags,
I was facing the fabled gun of Act I,
shelves and shelves of beaded purses—
in Produce—hair ribbons, soaps of all smells.
Forget shelter. I was learning to eat, to shit.
To cry as a person I’d never been.
Or better put: in the mirror was another me
and inside her another her.