Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem by Norman Dubie from his new book, Robert Schumann Is Mad Again, an eclectic and inventive collection. There’s often an irreverent touch to Dubie’s lines, but his language is painfully precise—with an unnerving feel, as if we are looking at the world around us with new eyes. “Zone” begins with a “flag utterly bleached with years of sun, / seemingly made thin with turpentine” — lines that imply color, texture, smell, age, decay, and more. His later description of the flag “rioting with the wind” is such an arresting image, its precision unsettling; a preface, perhaps, for the darkness that invades the rest of the poem.
A flag utterly bleached with years of sun,
seemingly made thin with turpentine, is
an achievement in the yard of yellow grass.
Even the sun itself has faded
setting in the bee tenement of bearded palms.
The flag, nearly detached from its pole,
is somehow rioting with the wind.
This is just the first of six months of heat
and already a neighbor has been found
dead on his patio with a revolver
of glassy obsidian fallen to his sandals.
He told the maintenance man in the afternoon
he believed those bees were wasps
they were going to attack him and his tea, flying
like zeros right out of the sun
that will have blinded him.
John said the lawn mowers prevented him
from understanding what else he said, the face
truly reddening with the small success of evening.
Copyright 2019 Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved. Posted here with permission of Copper Canyon Press.