Vertigo, Michael T. Young

Chidago Canyon Petroglyph, Detail on Previous





He put everything breakable on the table—
the vase of petunias, his glasses, even his shadow
nuzzled in among the cutlery and plates.

There was an aroma of dill and lemon. Someone
was cooking something up, and he didn’t know who.
But he could smell the broken promise sizzling.
He could tell it was salted, so it would last.

He fumbled with the recipes, trying to find
the next step. But in its various translations
the language of those midnight orders
provided no measurements for the daily hungers.

There had to be an improvisation that balanced
the various ingredients. So, he sat down to count himself
among the breakable things, and whistling through them,
he began to hear the wind changing its name.

Michael T. Young


Review by Jared Pearce

At the end I hope the name-change is a sign the He comes up from the vertigo and back to something solid.  However, the poem is ambiguous on this point (and that’s ok with me).


Review by Ettore Fobo

In the first poem presented by Michael Young, a mundane situation—someone placing a vase and their eyeglasses on the table—becomes metaphysical because even the protagonist’s shadow “nuzzles in” among the cutlery and plates, in a progressively fragile and rarefied perceptual dimension. “The broken promises” carry the scent of cooking dishes, although daily hunger will almost certainly not be satisfied because it is a hunger that is metaphysical, symbolic, transcendental, and therefore insatiable. Through fragile things, an extraordinary metamorphosis occurs, allowing the wind to change its name, and this event seals the poem with an enigmatic conclusion. Between Charles Simic and Mark Strand, Michael Young finds a personal way to narrate this transfigured everydayness, and the mysterious need for a minute and fragile transcendence emerges between the lines. In the following poem, the figure of the mute bird appears to be both the cause and muse of the poet’s song, a mysterious bird similar to the least popular companion, whose name no one remembers. In this regard, I recall lines by the Czech poet Vladmir Holan: “Only the mute birds know what the song is / to whom you threw, on Christmas Eve, an unthreshed bundle”.


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

As in other poems in this issue, we gather and tally ourselves around an inventory. Breakables and ingredients – our own shadow distilled from them, fluctuating between them like an essence. How to concoct our possessions together for the best and most fulfilling outcome? How to fill our daily need for gratification, how to navigate among the faulty precooked realities and let-downs? How to sing above the noise? No inspiration is coming from our neighbours, where broken promises sizzle away. Improvisation is the answer, the invite is poignant and we can’t reject it. The vertigo we sense comes not from the realization of our mortality and fragility, but from looking through that fragility and beyond that mortality, straight into the endless possibilities and changes of luck, it emanates from the power sitting within us. Embrace it. The way things really are (Chris Isaak)


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