Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fables by Sarah Goldstein

Tarpaulin Sky 2011

My friend Zachary and I were talking about monsters a few months ago in relation to a research project I'm putting together and he said, "A day doesn't go by when people don't think of monsters.  The threat is always present."  In particular, the threat of harm is always lingering in edges of what we can't know.  The ambiguity lacquered into shadows, the dripping voices around the corner; at the very least we must be weary of the unknown.

Sarah Goldstein's collection Fables, completes the aforementioned criteria, and then becomes fucking menacing.  As with an fable or fairy tale, we choose to believe in the niceties of what Disney has provided us with; however, almost all of these stories were horrifically grim (or Grimm).  Goldstein does not allow us to afford any hope that we will not be harmed.  For instance, the second poem from her Fables section creeps into our viscera and won't let us breathe:

The girl comes clambering up the hill from the meadow to the house, whispering the message into her hands. Now the sheep in the field, the holes in the ground; and she stops, having entered the kitchen.  Her mother is on the floor in the corner, curled with her fingers in her mouth.  The rabbit her father tossed on the counter for stew has awakened, and they watch as it lurches towards the window.  Outside, the dogs begin to howl and their father comes into the kitchen.  He holds his shovel like a sword, breathing heavily.  In the barn, the cats are stalking the mice they killed that morning, mice that now stagger across the rough-hewn floors. (8)

Something in these poems is twisting necks of chickens behind you.  Something in these poems has a frightening smile.  Then, you enter the poems and see what is menacing behind you.

The book is split up into 3 parts, and a prelude and epilogue (or at least I'd like to think it is that way).  And all the while, the you and I slowly creep from the sweating pours of these poems and as a reader they become too close for comfort.  The best comparison to this book, for me, is the German film White Ribbon.  Suffice to say, this is a horrific and threatening film that never relents in its promise of violence:
Through the filter of this film, these poems have an all too real probability of menacing from under your tongue.  There is an unsettling viscera being manipulated and probed; Goldstein's ambiguity does not judge what has or is about to happen: "If the ghost of your true love appears at your window, cover your eyes with cotton and stay still until dawn.  But if the ghost comes again the next night, you must lead her back to her jagged body in the cellar where she lies." (48)

These poems beg the read to consider possibility, which is the most frightening after-gloaming our imaginations are able to task.  This book is monstrous.

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