a stem of gestures...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Tory Dent


Only my mouth taking you in, the greenery splayed deep green.

Within my mouth, your arm inserted, a stem of gestures, breaking

Into each other we root arbitrarily, like bushes, silken, and

Palaver, we open for the thrill of closing, for the thrill of it:

The night was so humid when I knelt on the steps, wet and cold,
        of prewar stone.

A charm bracelet of sorts we budded, handmade but brazen, as if

I cannot imagine the end of my fascination, emblazoned but
        feather-white too.

The gold closure of this like a gold coin is, of course, ancient.

Why can't experience disseminate itself, be silken and brazen yet

A miniature Eiffel Tower, an enameled shamrock, a charm owned
        by its bracelet.


Author of three essential collections: What Silence Equals, HIV, Mon Amour, and Black Milk – Tory Dent is a necessary voice in American literature. Her early death was such a loss. “Palea” – a work that is typically Dentian – expresses the poet’s focus on the beautiful and the terrible – a poem about identity that is reluctant to give itself over to commentary. So many strong phrases live in this poem: the greenery splayed deep green ... into each other we root arbitrarily ... gestures, breaking gracefully ... emblazoned but feather-white too. The syntax, the word choice, the sounds of the phrasings are effective.

For all who love poetry, Dent’s line, “I cannot imagine the end of my fascination,” speaks to those fragile aspects of literature and life that we are drawn to. The stories that are fragmented. The great works, unwritten, unfinished. Devastatingly painful moments expressed in words. A truth that is real in every sense.

The wonderful barrage of images that fill this brief poem – in some way – defies us or dares us to consider the real world outside our doors of safety and perception. There is pain, to be sure. But there’s also an essence, a chord that once heard, we cannot escape – a moment that completely alters our ways of thought, feeling, expression. Dent’s writing speaks to that part of our lives.

A poem that is deeply felt on many levels, but also a work that is elusive with its logic and made all the more appealing for that.


poet with a day job said...

Tory Dent: amamzing poem, amazing poet. Tremendous loss.

Collin said...

Ditto what PwaDJ said. Tory is essential reading. HIV, Mon Amour sure be required reading.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for the read to both of you - Melissa & Collin. I like Dent's work so much. Strong writer. Her voice is true to the poem - all her poems.