A Long Poem I Love: Reckoner by Adam Fell (from I Am Not A Pioneer)

4 Jun
  1. At four pages, is this a long poem? I can’t spend much time with your question, sir, but I can be honest in a jiffy and say, Sure, it is. I call this a long poem for both how it stretches its story and expands its situation further than its four pages, how big and heavy this thing is (more in just a moment on that, patience please), but also for how long, geesh is that the best I can come up with?, it lingers with me after I’ve read it, the first poem in Fell’s rad book I read two months ago.
  2. It opens: “Overnight, the lake invents itself.” And as this lake beats against the city, wallops the townspeople’s steadiness, they, the people of the poem, panic and begin to throw fire, cars, the nature surrounding, and buildings into the lake, an offering of sorts.

Our fingers calloused round and gripping
the handles of shovels, thousands of us,

filling the lake with beach sand, shore sod,
the expensive audio equipment
the wealthy use around here as wavebreaks.

We keep filling, keep dredging.

We dump parked cars in the lake.
We dump parking meters.

We dump the bags of change
collected form the parking meters.

  1. What’s that reaction called? Fight or flight? Here they fight with what’s around them, what they can toss at this thing they’ve named “a terror.”
  2. I can’t read this poem, think of this poem, type words about this poem without a giant Mouth appearing above the page, above my head. The Mouth is what is this poem, the lake as mouth, the mouth of the townsmen like Mike and Bill and others with their advice given and gone against, the speaker’s mouth telling this story whomever wherever he is, the mouth of the writer (that exists somewhere still surely?), the we’s that talk (or choose to stay silent, only act) throughout:

We vote to close debate without debating.
We vote to gather our rifles and torches at shore.


Bill says, I wonder if some of us shouldn’t,
you know, throw ourselves in as a sacrifice
to the cause of wiping out this, you know, terror,
this sudden unknown destroying our…

Bill stops.

We know he’s been awake all night
perfecting his speech in the mirror.

  1. Through all the talking, the solutions emptying the town around the lake, the narrative, where are the mouths with the questions as to exactly what the problem is? How terrifying, more so maybe than the lake, is that lack of debate, is that settle on the “fact” that this lake is an (THE) issue.

We’re running out of things
running, running, things, things,

but the lake still calmly takes
what little we give it.

It opens and swallows, opens and swallows.
Never a complaint.

Around midnight we run out of rubble.

  1. When does an act of safety, of protection, of a good decision, become a damaging act of presumptuous repetition? The throwing mimicking the lake’s returning against the shore, the poem mimicking the townspeople’s repetition, as time moves forward.
  2. If I may, I’m gonna, take a second for a personal bloop. I tried getting married young, the family thing, the steady thing, then the doubts and the fears, my own lake, beating daily against my skull, my lake eating my family, both born and created, my poems, my happiness, and eventually me. How strange for something so lovely, so possibly soothing, just by being there, just by returning, just by making its presence known daily and definitively can disrupt and disturb, despite all its goodness.
  3. Yet when it comes down to self-sacrifice, giving up oneself, it becomes something easy to turn back on, something to end on, to choose flight in the end (SPOILER ALERT MAN):

We all volunteer to be martyrs.

But by morning
none of us have gone through with it.

  1. What is it with throwing away our defenses, but not ourselves? People want to take away protections like birth control and the justice in the justice system. People want to take (and/or give?) away happiness and love, both for themselves and others. People want to throw away their surrounding nature and their health. The fear, it creeps, but why are we limiting that wall between that and us?

Buy I Am Not A Pioneer by Adam Fell, a totally awesome book kicked off by this poem, from H_NGM_N Books, right now if you know what’s up.

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