As I have said before, I am working on my undergraduate these, a book of poems and photographs paired together. I have been working under working poet and editor and professor Geoffrey Brock. I recently finished his earlier book of poetry, Weighing Light.
Here is what Richard Wilbur himself said about this work:
Geoffrey Brock’s poems are delightful in ways which are all too rare nowadays. I am grateful for their freshness of attack, the play and interplay of their words, and their speaking voice, which talks so often in the key of rueful comedy.
I think Brock balances well cutting sincerity with humor well in this book of poems. As he is trained in prosody, he writes in ways in tune with traditional forms. He does so in ways not heavy-handed but masterful. I enjoyed most of all, his multipart poems: “More Light Verse,” “Mundane Comedies,” “My Austere and Lonely Office (Soliloquies),” “Orpheus Variations,” “Ovid Old,” “Speak Now (Soliliquies),” and “Transit Gloria Mundi.”
I wanted to feature one or two of his poems. I think I will choose his two soliloquy collections (mentioned above). In these his humor and sincerity overlap most clearly and perfectly, in my opinion. And perhaps I have a weakness for collections of short poems.
My Austere and Lonely Office (Soliloquies)
Back then, I hated my job:
the heat, the mess, the smell.
Now my life’s too clean, too tame:
I am the Keeper of Paperclips
and I burn for the days of flame.
I have three misshapen hands: the first hand
is the second hand, the second hand
is the minute hand, and the third hand
(the minute one) is the hour hand.
I can never keep them straight.
The Cordless Phone (Ringing)
I know, for what it’s worth,
the sacred secrets of lovers
and felons, of prostitures
and poets, but can repeat
only this ragged cry I’ve known since birth.
The Incense Burner
has a crush on me —
I’ll send up
The Letter Opener
I long to be a tempered sword, or even a knife
with a real edge. With every envelope
I open, I imagine bright flesh
rending, my thin body
bathed in blood.
The Mechanical Pencil
Gray matter funnels
through me and out,
translates itself into
The peristalsis of all.
The Paperclips (In Unison)
If you find the Stapler’s governing philosophy
unsettling, even fascistic (as we do), then consider
that our gentler methodology allows you to form
more peaceful unions, looser confederations,
and protects each member from harm.
I am plural. To become one
with my purpose, I must cut
something in two. This is how
I am made. Divided against my
self, I want everything divided.
The many who have become one in my embrace
can never deny their common bond, it’s true
but I see order, not violence, in that — don’t you?
Only when I am full of wine
do I recall how empty I have been.
And only when I recall how empty I’ve been
do I know how empty I’ll be again.
Only when I am full of wine.
Speak Now (Soliloquies)
No one ever talks about
what becomes of the bride’s bouquet
after I’ve been flung and caught
by blossoming girls on a sunny day.
(They know, of course. They just can’t bear to say.)
The Cake Statuette
We’ve posed all day in formal dress,
feet iced, arms intertwined.
And though you’d never guess
from our perfect, plastic smiles,
A Champagne Flute (Slightly Drunk)
You don’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa
to look at this pair and know
true love is sometimes faux
(It ain’t champagne, mon frére,
if the grapes were grown in Napa.)
The pulse and musk of her in this dark tent —
life will never again be as good as this.
After he hikes the dress, what then? A year or
maybe two (brief afterglow of bliss!)
of hanging limply from his rear-view mirror.
The Getaway Car
I’ve never looked so dumb in all my life.
I thought the man had balls.
I thought he liked things my way.
A wife! Before we reach Niagara Falls
I swear I’ll drop my trannie on the highway.
Let’s admit impediments:
I tire of my diet of cake and more cake.
What about some cheese, some steak?
(Once I nicked a bride’s tongue, just to try it —
I haven’t been sharpened since.)
The Photographer’s Camera
These gigs are just to pay the bills, you know?
I’m actually an artist. Experimental?
I did once have a show, which went quite well.
The thing is, though, I’m into the accidental —
my stuff’s not decorative enough to sell.
The Rice (in Dirge-Like Unison)
We have been known to feed
the poor. Yet here we’re thrown
into the laughing, shouting faces of the rich. . .
And if we sprout, it’s only as a weed
rising from birdshit in a ditch.
I’m gifted: I see them as they are,
yet hide them from their spouse-to-be.
Until I’m lifted, what they mostly see
(as each embroiders the other’s face
with swatches of my lace) is me.
The Wedding Ring
I’m glad you like my rocks.
But I feel what Snow White
must have felt when her prince
finally showed: delighted
just to get out of that damn box.