Pushcart 2015: Kara Candito, “Monologue During a Blackout” (Poetry) from Jubilat, #24

         What about zebra?—suppose
you had to come back as a zebra,
      knowing you’d spend your life
            trampling the savannah with the desperation
      of an Open During Construction sign?

I had to laugh at the first stanza – that simile is so out-of-left-field, yet so perfect. I was a little relieved to read, in Candito’s Rumpus Poetry Club conversation with Brian Spears, that a laugh, or at least a smile, was the hoped-for effect. Just in time for things to turn achingly sad in the second stanza (the poem is available online at VerseDaily). Humor/ache, black/white.

Then I tremendously enjoyed the discontinuous thought: “…anything can happen. Often // it doesn’t. The rain stops.” Is that good or bad? Black or white? Depends. In a blackout (or in a dentist’s waiting room, where I first encountered this poem, is that good or bad?) it might seem like a comfort. On graduation day, a wedding night, the first day on a new job, it might seem like a downer. Then again, wouldn’t a blackout be fun if the energy not coming through the wires were transformed to his finger tracing her chin… Is a blackout good or bad? Openness.

I’m so taken with individual lines and images – listening to Bach through headphones as “seismic privacy of tiny, angry / gods beating your middle ear” – that I barely realize I have no grasp of the overall poem. I wondered if I’d have an easier time if I knew more about the collection from which it comes, so I did a little more hunting: Spectator, “an homage to anyone who’s been displaced or redefined by bureaucratic systems of power.” Interesting. It’s so intimate. Maybe that’s how you fight bureaucracy: create your own intimate space wherever you are.

I can’t speak to the technique (just for fun, I rearranged all the lines, putting those indented at the same level together, but that was pretty goofy, even for me), but there’s an interview for that, as well, with Justin Bigos on 32Poems; unfortunately, it goes way over my head, but that doesn’t mean I don’t aspire.


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