"Salt Pieces" by Taghrid Abdelal from New England Review 43.2 is a challenging poem that defies breezy explication. But I'm going to breeze through it anyway, and leave you to do the heavy lifting. Read the full poem by clicking the picture above.
See what I mean?
Don't take the easy road and tell me, "The poem's a translation."
Take the hard road, with me, and try to grapple with the poem line by line. Image by image.
The first three lines, to my ear, are virtually flawless:
Everything will melt
at the bottom of childhood:
the road is the salt.
That is they sound flawless. Does this mean they have flawless meaning? Does this mean they should have flawless meaning? And what's flawless meaning anyway? For that matter, what's flawless?
Forget all that. Let's just stick to the poem. The next stanza promises us that salt:
will devise new noses
to seek us out.
Then the poem gets sort of strange. There are jugs, unspecified observers, unspecified losses, the hint of an age defying anthem that promptly fragments, until we reach the poem's first vertical pronoun:
I observe myself:
I adhere to falling things
because they are fractures
of butterflies in a race
Incredible lines. Beauty dripping throughout and a sense of inventive longing. This is as subjective as poetry gets, but it's still speeding tantalizingly toward the universal. I can't tell you why, or how, precisely, but I feel it.
The poem reaches it's conclusion in a flurry of questions. This rhetorical repetition is almost a reproach to the reader who certainly has no context through which to answer.
This is where it stuns.
Because the poem is a complete statement. It's the fractal of an unnamed emotion that, possibly, is unnamable. Yet we all experience it: the dream (or nightmare) quality that mixes with normal life until you can't really see it, and just when you do, it's gone again, but always there.
I mentioned the idea of pataphysics in my last blog post. This poem is a tour-de-force of pataphysical epiphany. I'd love to hear what you make of its associations. Clearly, in this case, I need a little help from my friends. Drop me a line through the link below.