Crawlspace, Ace Boggess

Michael Diehl, Portland





The electrician’s assistant wedges
          through a hidden square

in the basement—a sector of the house
          we never enter,
dark as a cavern but wide enough to be
          a child’s room.

Don’t get stuck, I say, implying, No one
          comes to save you.

The miner’s light on his head brightens a swath,
          then disappears.

Time passes. I imagine him caught in a web,
          devoured by a brown recluse
the size of a car. How long has it been?

You all right in there? I say. No reply, not
          the echo of Okay okay okay.
I’m starting to worry about the things
          that can’t be found
or known: where a wire travels or was laid
          sixty years ago;
what death might be, or entropy in the tangible,
          observable world.

I hold my breath as if watching Houdini start
          the clock, enter the water tank.
At last, the man reappears. We both gasp,
          swallowing dusty air.

There’s nothing, he says, his shoulders
          birthed by cinderblocks.
I could’ve told you so, I think. Why would he
          listen? Why would anyone
when there’s a mystery to solve &,
          yes, of course, a secret room?

Ace Boggess


Review by Livio Farallo

As co-editor of Slipstream, I’ve always been an admirer of Ace Boggess’s work and we’ve included a number of his pieces in the magazine over the years. So, I was drawn to the 2 pieces “Crawlspace” and “Wisdom”. Both, I think, are typical of Boggess’s writing and I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense at all. Boggess has a way of forming a story in a picture you might not comprehend immediately, which is a definite strength in my mind. A piece that is read and “understood” at once is more likely to be discarded with a shake of the head. When you return to a piece, invariably, you’ll see something or things you didn’t pick out initially, or, you can derive multiple meanings of what you think the piece is about, regardless of what the writer may have intentionally intended or vaguely had in mind. What also make these 2 pieces work, ultimately, are the concluding lines which tie the strings and provide that little impact that is often sought for at the end of a piece of writing.

However, even if a reader knows exactly what a piece is about, what form it takes, what perspective the writer is coming from, I don’t think you can critique it with any suggestions/recommendations for improvement (other than, perhaps, punctuational or grammatical clarification); in other words, technical suggestions. Once you stray into conceptual improvements for a piece you are treading on the writer’s own creative endeavor, in which you have no business. You like, dislike or are indifferent to, a piece for a number of reasons but, that is simply your own perception/opinion/experiential reference. I’m speaking here as an interested reader and editor, and as an editor I’ve never suggested “improvements” or revisions to a piece submitted to Slipstream since I don’t believe it is in my purview. A piece works for us or it doesn’t because we know what we are looking for. This, of course, involves discussions, re-readings and so on but, as I’ve mentioned, once you make concrete suggestions for altering the content and concept of a piece you’re grafting your own opinion (no matter how well-thought or researchingly referenced) into the writer’s thought process and creation.

So anyway, in capping this “critique”, I think Boggess’s 2 pieces, “Crawlspace” and “Wisdom”, are excellent as they stand and are really in no need of criticism at all.


Review by J.S. Absher

I experience this poem as a meditation on the attraction of mystery and nothingness. The poem stresses absence and emptiness—a part of the house “we never enter”; the assistant’s “no reply” to the speaker’s question, and the lack of echo that the emptiness of the dark room should return to the speaker; the “worry about the things / that can’t be found”—and more. The last stanza begins with a wry, even comic exchange—“There’s nothing,” the assistant says, but the speaker already knew that. But someone else’s answer to mystery won’t do: we have to found out ourselves—a human characteristic finely demonstrated by the poem.


Review by Jared Pearce

What I like best here is the speaker’s conclusion: There’s a secret room and a mystery, so let’s go!  There’s an energy in that drive that’s a wonderful contrast to the worry and the thought of impending doom portrayed by the speaker in the earlier part of the poem. 


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

Moths to a flame, each to its own. That is where I think we are with this poem of great truths. Houdini has found refuge in each of us, which makes us unable to escape our own urge to snare ourselves just for the thrill of another escape. Most secret rooms hide no secret, but that won’t stop us. Any good advice anybody? Please don’t bother.


Review by Paul Willis

I love the way that Ace Boggess takes a routine trip by an electrician’s assistant into a basement crawlspace and turns it into a mythic underworld journey, all without letting go of the plain details of the experience.  The anxiety of the homeowner propels the poem, from his comical worry that the electrician will be “devoured by a brown recluse / the size of a car” to his great relief to see the explorer re-emerge, “his shoulders / birthed by cinderblocks.”  Great ending too, in the way that the speaker honors the lure of “a secret room.”


Review by Steve Cushman

I love both of these poems by Ace Bogess
Crawlspace  pulls us beautifully into the world of our homes and what we see and never see.  We all have those pieces and places nearby that we never see or touch.  I also like the playful dialogue and the narrator’s obvious distress and the end line made me smile.



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