Voluntary Servitude: Poems

Overview

A chilling and masterful second poetry collection by the author of the award-winning The Anchorage

Sometimes the heart breaks. Sometimes

it is not held hostage. The red world

where cells prepare for the unexpected

splays open at the window's ledge.

Be not human you inhuman thing. -from "Amaryllis"

Voluntary...

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Overview

A chilling and masterful second poetry collection by the author of the award-winning The Anchorage

Sometimes the heart breaks. Sometimes

it is not held hostage. The red world

where cells prepare for the unexpected

splays open at the window's ledge.

Be not human you inhuman thing. -from "Amaryllis"

Voluntary Servitude asks of the beloved, "You say, Don't wreck me, and I say I won't, but how can I know that?" Here the poet is both servant and master to memory, sex, family, and the will of the lover, and the resulting poems describe the physical and psychological constraints and releases of relationships at the breaking point.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This haunting book proposes to consider ardor, love, and betrayal through the lens of a particular rhetoric: the vocabulary of submission and domination, the dynamic of power and desire yoking slave and master, beast and trainer, the harnessed and the wielder of the whip. Operating in a linguistic realm that floats somewhere above the territory of narrative without sacrificing either urgency or emotional intensity, Mark Wunderlich's new collection is a bold, memorable accomplishment." —Mark Doty
Publishers Weekly
Vivid, convincing lines on the torments of love, flirtatious descriptions and weighty confessions mingle in Wunderlich's deeply felt sophomore effort. "This is availability, this is tenderness," Wunderlich's leadoff poem announces, and the lyrical works that follow demonstrate both. Rural Wisconsin (where the poet grew up) alternates with vistas from Austria and Turkey as the poet's erotic quest, his desperately hopeful declarations and admissions, spread out to encompass an imagined world. Insistent short lines control poems of waiting and hoping, while longer stanzas and sentences extend over a love affair's aftermath, where "I was what they left behind in the fire." His images end up filmic, almost baroque, finding complication and human longing in every animal, valley, forest and street. Hunting and horseback riding govern several extended metaphors, while other lines pursue (or reject) erotic experience in more literal fashion. "I spent my summer dancing on a bar," one prose poem begins; "It was a summer of little daylight and I was mostly imaginary." Another poem concludes on a stark invitation: "Look at me, little body./ Look at me with a heart that is drum-empty." Wunderlich's debut, The Anchorage, garnered a 1999 Lambda Award; the variety of forms and emotional intensities here should bring this follow-up even more recognition. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974084
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Wunderlich is the author of The Anchorage, which won the 1999 Lambda Literary Award. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Amaryllis 3
Voluntary servitude 5
Lamb 7
Tack 8
Letter to J. 9
Landscape dream #7 10
Breakable 12
Dream of archeology 13
Device for burning bees and sugar 14
Dream : intruder 16
I too am an animal of great beauty 17
White 18
Error 19
Water snake 21
Vulpecular dream #1 22
The imperial life of insects 23
Postcards from the Vienna Woods 24
The kept one 25
Obedience attempts 26
The triangle song 27
It's your turn to do the milking, father said 29
Ice queen 30
Invention 31
Grand Isle 32
Letter from Bayou LaFourche 33
Belle rose fragment 34
The visit 35
Letter to E. 36
Poem beginning with a line by Cavafy 37
Soprano authority 38
Split infinitives 39
Seen 40
The room 41
An argument 42
The buck 43
Tamed 45
On omens 46
Town, gone 48
The meeting 50
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First Chapter

Voluntary Servitude


By Mark Wunderlich

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2004 Mark Wunderlich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-408-2


Chapter One

AMARYLLIS

after Rilke You've seen a cat consume a humming bird, scoop its beating body from the pyracantha bush and break its wings with tufted paws before marshaling it, whole, into its bone-tough throat; seen a boy, heart racing with cocaine, climb from a car window to tumble on the ground, his search for pleasure ending in skinned palms; heard a woman's shouts as she is pushed into the police cruiser, large hand pressing her head into the door, red lights spinning their tornado in the street. But all of that will fade; on the table is the amaryllis pushing its monstrous body in the air, requiring no soil to do so, having wound two seasons' rot into a white and papered bulb, exacting nutrition from the winter light, culling from complex chemistry the tints and fragments that tissue and pause and build again the pigment and filament. The flower crescendos toward the light, though better to say despite it, gores through gorse and pebble to form a throat-so breakable-open with its tender pistils, damp with rosin, simple in its simple sex, to burn and siphon itself in air. Tongue of fire, tongue of earth, the amaryllis is a rudiment forming its meretricious petals to trumpet and exclaim. How you admire it. It vibrates in the draft, a complex wheel bitten with cogs, swelling and sexual though nothing will touch it. You forced it to spread itself, to cleave and grasp, remorseless, open to your assignments-this is availability, this is tenderness, this red plane is given to the world. Sometimes the heart breaks. Sometimes it is not held hostage. The red world where cells prepare for the unexpected splays open at the window's ledge. Be not human you inhuman thing. No anxious, no foible, no hesitating hand. Pry with fiber your course through sand. Point your whole body toward the unknown away from the dead. Be water and light and land-no contrivance, no gasp, no dream where there is no head. VOLUNTARY SERVITUDE In a valley in Wisconsin there is a graveyard where the graves are flooded by spring.

You say, Don't wreck me, and I say I won't, but how can I know that? To see a man in shackles, how you feel about that, depends on whether the servitude in voluntary The bodies are intact in their gloves, soaked in a bath of ice. Hair a net around them. Music does not console me. Words in books rise up and scatter. A friend told me of a snake that came into her room one night. The house was in Pennsylvania. She lived there alone. In the dark she could hear it-dry, slipping onto boards like a stocking rolled from a leg. It retreated when she turned on a light. There was a dark hole at the floor. Residents disagree about the cemetery. Some think to say the bodies are intact is wrong. To suggest that there is anything abnormal is unfit thinking. I have a new story to tell you. In it, there is a girl. It's a story a friend once told me. Some forms of servitude are voluntary. Some shackles too- Some you can remove. But this story- you start in the middle, in the thick and marrow of it. I think you'll like it. Let me tell it to you. Lying side by side. In the dark. LETTER TO J. With your hand over my mouth, your body on my back, I still attempt refusal. In my head, the tattered curtain falls to the stage, the actors are over iron-scorched costumes to the laundress, the carts are wheeled away with their props of paste. Your mother interests me. Today I think of her lying in the cool recess of your plantation home, splayed in her negligee upon the candlewick spread, her six French boys on their knees around her, a rosary clicking off sins bead by bead. Once you told me of the house maid who spilled her change on the front porch-money she'd pinched from your pockets in the laundry. You knelt to help her gather it up. The money didn't matter to you, though her small revenge clings to you like a burr. I pretend you are the father. I am the child stepping into the bath. My pale limbs texture with gooseflesh and the water is too hot. When I call, you come to me, wash my small body, which once was your body and curled in the smallest cell of your sex. You handle me gently but with contempt. Your teeth have left their impress on my thigh. when you hurt me, I press my face to the pillow and do my sums. Two wings and a feathery heart do not add up to bird. Fathers and sons continue to multiply.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Voluntary Servitude by Mark Wunderlich Copyright © 2004 by Mark Wunderlich. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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