Two parked Kobelco cranes, their buckets dropped
on the ground, face each other’s necks, crossed
in double x’s, like courting flamingos.
I think of the drivers inching this masque
together, dreaming of Caterpillars,
their blades raised, catting in Peoria.
Romance is frowned upon in certain shops
and offices, but by the side of the road
in Wilmington in winter sun and ice,
with fine feathers of frost on every
extending thing, one out of an other,
two behemoths of the town garage
can take their break in any form, or way,
that nature or its offshoots, enflamed free
radicals, or tired operators, choose to make.
And so they have. With no license given
by local ordinance or committee
for improvement, or its opposite, two
cooing Kobelcos keep whimsy in our midst,
resting and rusting in the open air.
Review by Massimo Fantuzzi
Every crack in the asphalt is like nursery to a flower whose bloom escapes the directives of our “local ordinance or committee / for improvement.” Every crane is a flamingo—if we so decide, echoes M. Bazilian in his composition, “Gray.”
We break up from the conditioning that has kept us for so long; we animate signals of urbanistic poetry and naturalistic mechanical romance.
Be reactive, rebel, create and engage in chain reactions that destabilize other molecules around us. Be alert and free from the bad habits and teachings. Be like “free / radicals.” Start looking, the poet is telling us, and you’ll find, as nature’s pulse is everywhere to be echoed, asking to be re-experienced.
Review by Dave Mehler
“Doctor’s Advice” and “The Lady in the Liquor Store” are like embedded journalist communiques from the existential front of humanity, perhaps distinctively American with its first world problems. In the first, a son realizes he has stepped into his father’s position as the aging and fragile skier (and primarily there for the lunch) who must now wear a helmet if he continues to do this young person’s recreational sport. In the second, two people from a rehab clinic spot each other in a liquor store, presumably right after attending an AA meeting together. “Cooing Kobelcos,” diverges from this mode, by reveling in whimsy. I do take issue with the use of the word “cranes” because technically this is not the right terminology for these machines. A proper term in the US would variously be excavator, or trackhoe, or as operators themselves refer to them as “hoes,” or even more commonly by brand and weight classification such as “Hitachi” or “320.” But the speaker can be forgiven this lapse, since he obviously is viewing them as an outside observer bringing fresh perspective as the poet, rather than one who deals with them daily as workhorse or mechanical partner performing some dirty job. Mitchell’s poem reminds me of David Young’s wonderful set of prose poems, “Four for Heavy Equipment,” from his great little book, Work Lights, which offers a similar whimsical perspective in which the machines are longing for love. Mitchell notes how they are parked and notices they are like flamingos with their booms and sticks crossed like the necks of the pink birds, as if the operators parked them this way intentionally. Mitchell is not far off in realizing that operators do take into consideration how their parked machines appear to the outside world. At the landfill where I work we often have outsiders touring the site to see how trash and WM handle waste, and after one tour too many, this time a group of Chinese in a tour bus came through, a couple of operators parked two bucket loaders on either side of a trackhoe, and as the bus drove by operator Justin lifted the boom and bucket of the trackhoe straight up in salute. Perhaps the touring Chinese saw it as a way to say hello, or visualized it as the trunk of a great elephant being lifted, or saw through to Justin’s actual intent to convey a great mechanical equipment fuck you visually representing a giant cock and balls? The boss, also in the bus, did not pick up on the intended message.