Dean Young escorts his transplanted heart into invigorating poetic territory that combines the joy of being alive with his signature mixture of surrealism, humor, and fast-cut imagery. A Pulitzer finalist known for his hard-won insights, NPR said it best when they observed that Young sees "even in the smallest things the heights of what we can be."--
What makes this collection a bit different is that Shock by Shock is his first since he received a heart transplant. Four months in a hospital recovering.
is a vessel of flame-flicker
and even in dreams I say my lover’s
name so picture me for verisimilitude
made entirely of sunflowers but keep
the long scar in the center of my chest,
under it a grim doctrine frolics
on a dissecting table. I who have been
restored by cardiac shocks, dropped
into morning wanton and struck.
“…When / you are waiting for a new heart / you are waiting for someone to die.” (”How I got Through My Last Day on the Transplant List”)
. . . likes the theater, the gowns and masks
the rib-cage splitter and ceremonial
reaching into the chest
and a stranger, a boy really,
the heart of a reckless, generous boy
lifted from its cooler
and sutured into a carnal afterlife,
rose by rose, ladder by ladder,
shock by shock by shock.
He's a master of great titles and provocative lines. From "Street of Blind Knife Throwers" (ha!), one I took to be about poets:
One thought she was a genius for putting
9 commas in a row. Do not be too quick
to embrace an alternative energy source,
let fracking be your guide. Some things
can only be found when you hide. Sometimes
it's like a fistfight to decide who's
the biggest pacifist.
One of my favorites in this collection, with another great title:
Crash Test Dummies of an Imperfect God
Because we are so stupid,
the prizes in Cracker Jacks are now paper
so they can be swallowed, ladders
spackled with warnings. No getting
within a hundred feet of Stonehenge because
everyone wants to hack off a souvenir
and the way home is clogged to one lane
so whoever wants to can stare into a pothole
until coming up with a grievance. I’d vote
the greatest accomplishment of mankind
is the pickle spear. God created paradise
to tell us Get out! which is why we probably
created God who doesn’t much like being created
by ilk like us. No wonder it’s pediatrics
every morning and toxicology by happy hour.
Is it all in the mind, the dirty, dirty mind?
Maybe God tried to turn you into a garbage can
so you could be lifted by the truck’s hydraulic
arms and banged empty. Maybe a snow cone
so you could be sticky-sweet and dropped.
Maybe a genital-faced bivalve to be dashed
with Tabasco and eaten whole or, to his glory,
produce a pearl.
* * * *
Hard not to be inspired by this guy.