Elizabeth Hoover has a chapbook Love in the Wild in which the aestheticization of violence leaves the reader in trembling cognitive dissonance. Here is the end of “War Games” which tells the story of a rescue attempt that butts up against the ravages of body and mind that can no longer be endured.
When I wake to shouting I run to the edge
of the minefield we ringed in barbed wire
Bigs holds me back and she turns and looks
at all of us, tucks her chin down and rips
the dress slowly from the collar to the hem—bones,
bruises, a bandage black with blood—
all the while singing a little song quietly,
so quietly we hear the click.
And there it ends. The imagination lies suspended before the detonation. A sound offering a freeze frame. And you admire the poet’s skill and shudder at the beauty and begin to register the horror. All condensed in that one click.
In “A Celebration: Maude Oklahoma”, a poem about a lynching and burning in honour of Palmer Sampson (1881-1898) and Lincoln McGeisey (1882-1898), Hoover again manages to convey eerie haunting on a pivotal word. We are invited into a mind we find repulsive. Again the tension turns on positioning of a small detail shattering any pleasure offered up by easy voyeurism. The reader is forced to resist complicity and the final statement turns into a question and sets the mind a spinning.
In the dovegray morning, a slice of yellow appeared
along the horizon. it was winter and the frost
tinged the tips of the grass white. The crowd was quiet,
sifting through the greasy ashes looking for souvenirs:
the soot-speckled link of the chain, a vertebrae twisted
from the spine, or even just a hunk of the burnt stump,
anything to hold up to the light, saying Remember,
remember when we burned those two boys
how lovely they were, bright under the dark oak,
how lovely, what a celebration.
The weight of irony is not light. “Celebration” is leached of its joy.
And so for day 2148