Disappearing Address by Simone Muench and Philip Jenks is out now from BlazeVOX. Cover art by Kim Ambriz.
Dear Philip & Simone—
Your writing's overwrought. Too haute.
Not cuisine or couture, but chicken-legged
high-kickin' rhetoric vetted, vent,
& le vexor. French-fried car-talkers,
superspeed diesel drama. You're all dilemma
& no serenity. Prickly as Jamestown weed,
more story than history. You've been dissed
& rechristened: poet to bootlegger; writer
were you in Louisiana simultaneously?
Is that a place or frequency of syllabic
slowdown? A dos-a-dos at the American Legion
hoedown where everyone's shouting bingo.
You once had a chance—sparrow & listen.
Trued by circumstance? Forget the men & shake
the dj into harmony, shake yourselves out of
a neutered dance, tremors of a doomed species.
Who locks lips to see what one is not?
Who writes themselves to save themselves,
only to find later that the whole of heavenly frame
is sickness propped up on a slouching tongue.
First published in Drunken Boat
On election night, this grid of yours
was love blown to lava. Lit up by onions
& fireworks, a delirium of this plus that.
Did you read Max Weber's postcard about you?
Your smoky sediment; your shouldered sonata.
You are smaller in person but shimmer
on camera. Burning at a distance we walk
into you: falling glass, lake effects & electricity—
a Midwest lesson on skyscraper elation.
Perfect spot for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
& adoptive home to Nelson, Gwendolyn & Studs.
What else do you name children living near aqueducts?
How on earth are you doing, Chicago?
Your eloquent 90/94 gouged us in two.
Will you piece that together for us, Chicago?
We still love the elongation of your body
against the frosted lake; ice is the new modernism.
Once meat. Now, you shudder
your crocuses in ground faux new-age storefronts,
stuffed abundant flatness under this lithography
of bodies. This intimate ethnography:
a human being with its skin removed.
Both city "on the make" & "on the take".
You are contradictory & quarrelsome
—as full of crooks as a saw with teeth—
yet you are also a glorious canary-filled clarity
breathing change in a young, but stumped, century.
First published in A Writers' Congress: Chicago Poets on the Inauguration of Barack Obama
As darkly luxurious and ferociously driven as either Jenks or Muench is singly, this hydra-headed address is passion squared, an uncanny vesper "scribbled to the abyss" intoned in a duet so tuned as to create a third even more intense, even more longing, even smarter, even sadder, even scarier voice. Though the Gothic cast -- Morrissey, Michael Myers, a vampire, a deer on the North Dakota highway that appears like a recurring nightmare "jut-rotted...luring us to the wilderness," -- is glared at with fierce knowing (parlor games put the fun back in funeral here), the attention is sharp, without camp, and soul-piercing.
"Dear Leatherface," "Dear Danger," "Dear Film Noir," "Dear Chanteuse of the Abattoir for Young Girls" -- if you loved Simone Muench's Orange Crush as much as I did, you'll recognize in these titles from Disappearing Address the return of her great animating idea: femininity excited by danger. Muench collaborates with Philip Jenks here to return to the theme in a series of letters to villains from horror films, to abstractions, to icons of pop culture like Morrissey or the high school dance. The exploded syntax of the letters makes for a kaleidoscope of the sublime and the mundane -- Coca-Cola, Pop Rocks, and the Day of Judgment jostle one another in a kind of phantasmagoria. There's wit here -- "Dear Nothing" begins "why'd you have to cut out & make everything come back," "Dear Obtuse" begins "Be straight with me" -- but the best of the poems revel in novel images and a diction for which the only possible term is "hothouse gorgeous."