Archival Features, Poems

Andrew Zawacki: “Videotape: 51″

This month, from Andrew Zawacki, an analogue of memory: Andrew notes that “’Videotape’ is a serial poem primarily concerned with landscape—whether natural or manufactured, oneiric or simulated—and with the various media we employ to record, juxtapose, even invent geography, not to mention ruin it.  I’m specifically interested in obsolete technologies, like VHS and Betamax, with their magnetic tape and plastic cassettes, figures of inevitable decay.  These date from my childhood—also, of course, from the Reagan era, a technocracy of scary proportions (leveled by someone who’d been a film star).  While I’ve tried to leave dramas of selfhood out of these clips—the one thing not seen in a visual field is the person behind the viewfinder—, recalling that a camera’s lens is termed the ‘objective,’ a few subjective moments have nonetheless punctured the work.  51—a love song, written while my wife was away—is among them, with its speaker’s sentiments (nostalgia bordering on pathetic) themselves articulated in an outdated mode.  (We were spending summer in Paris and had just inherited cordial glasses dating from the Second Empire period.)  On the linguistic level, I’m enamored of stuttering and tautology, staccato and radio static: ‘private Soviet’ and ‘Union you and,’ from the close, for example, ‘tatters mattes’ from the middle, or the opening ‘-ins in in-.…’  Can something ‘begin’ in interruption?  Writing might be the interruption of what isn’t yet underway.”

Videotape: 51

Begins in interruption:
an ambulance bell at the center

of sleep, the room tilts
sideways, furniture slides,

an octet of amber blue
verres à liqueur, one with a cut

at the lip, clatters as a quaalude
light in tatters mattes the

curtains ormolu:
++I miss you

is what I want to say
like a rocket

remained from the Reagan
years, its radar gone haywire,

wiring fried but
live inside a bunker of some

private Soviet
Union you & I—

Andrew Zawacki is the author of the poetry books Petals of Zero Petals of One (Talisman House), Anabranch (Wesleyan), and By Reason of Breakings (Georgia). He is coeditor of Verse.  His translation of Sébastien Smirou, My Lorenzo, is forthcoming from Burning Deck.

“Videotape: 51” appears in Poetry Northwest Spring/Summer 2010 (v5.n1).