In Fish Bones, Gillian Sze grabs you by the shifts in tense, keeps you bouncing about in time frames. And aptly it’s the opening to a poem called “The Shaman’s Dance” that offers the perfect locus upon which to pin this observation:
From my kitchen window, I see
someone’s left a stroller in the alleyway,
a man pull flattened cardboard boxes out of a dumpster,
the tree’s bareness open to the sky’s scalp.
Is the man pulling or has he pulled? One is tempted to offer to inflect the verb but there is another way to read the quasi-accidental: a man’s pull flattened… so that the apostrophe “s” from the previous line and from the following line gets repeated. someone’s, a man’s, the tree’s.
I gather my cue from Sze’s “I Still Think So” turning around and hanging from the syntactic monkey bars.
I Still Think So
I was nine
when I discovered
that I looked prettier
when they were turned
Doesn’t “a man’s pull flattened cardboard boxes” look pretty? But it’s wrong. The anaphora of the apostrophes is only a visual trick of reading too fast. An itch on sky-scalp.
Temporal events collected in the simple act of seeing (the present holds – I see): someone left (present perfect), a man pull (present, a historical present?), bareness open (a present that hints at a continuous present?). And the anaphora is perhaps not so wrong as hidden. Tucked away. A future. Flattened.
And so for day 2083