POETRY
Road to Nowhere

Albert Mobilio
Touch Wood
(Black Square Editions/The Brooklyn Rail, 2011)

“So there are rays. Strong ones, others /only splinters.” These lines from Albert Mobilio’s eerie, minor-key latest collection Touch Wood aptly describe the delirious effects a reader may experience in the passenger seat of this existential ride through a psychic terrain of “sand banks, stung with grass.” Indeed, Mobilio’s syntax spills from line to line as a light ray filtering down through interstitial spaces of speech:

you do it by letting likeness creep in,
makes me resemble you &
the other way round & it’s goodbye
to truth, which
feels quiet at first

But in Touch Wood, as in the work of Carl Phillips, such refractions often culminate in full illumination. The afore-quoted “The Whole of It Is Winged” unfurls into clear music:

Then implausibly so
how easily we play this squeezebox,
step wide & bow
to beat the band, so many loves belong
to us, our song is
a perilous thrust, a pistol really,
handheld & in consequence
so much easier to aim.

It’s that perilous thrust that provides the sultry menace behind Mobilio’s stanzas, lending a suitably noir feel to the Hitchcockian “Only Woman in the World,” where the speaker finds a cinematic opiate (“how red this redness gets”) in a woman whose contours are glimpsed “in a silent film-scene / […] fractioned / by blinds,” and whose “cast-off sighs” become “blossoms on the floor.”

An enigmatic Cubist perspective on the angst of the everyday, the “blue-black of casual doom,” divides its abode with more explicitly narrative work such as “Kin,” which informs us “He’s my brother, but I made / him up: someone older, wiser,” before spidering into eccentric narrative within what at first seems to be a secure, Billy Collins-style conceit.

Among rougher gems, the glorious suite “The Spelled Out Spark in Rooms” illustrates that the ray of the poet’s expression may travel as logically by its own laws as does light, but may prove equally unpredictable, illuminating “a sparkling disco ball or Descartes peering / through an ox’s eye.”

Obsessively visual in its journey down the slyly humorous avenues of persona and the mechanics of everyday endurance, Touch Wood turns on a reader’s eyes like headlights on a late-afternoon ride through the abyss between our life’s milestone events, dispersing “particles of nowhere.” 

Contributor

Jerome Murphy

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