Ralph Angel Poems

Again, while searching for contemporary poets, I discovered Ralph Angel, who I almost chose for my poet but I think will be just a runner up instead. I find Angel’s work very striking in ways that I can’t always qualify the reasons for. Indeed, his poems have a lot of ambiguity and mystery about them and I enjoy the fact that there are certain aspects of his poems whose possible meanings remain hiddden from me even after several re-reads. Also, even though his poems have little to no detectable meter or rhyme to engage the reader throughout, his poems (that I’ve read thusfar) seem to end poignantly so that if your mind was straying at all in the middle parts, you are always reminded that you missed something by the end. Additionally, I am intrigued by his work because while I am more or less a country mouse, his poems often deal with urban themes or in city settings, and in this respect my curiousity and sense of novelty may come into play regarding my interest in his poetry. Here is an example of his work:

Breaking and Entering by Ralph Angel
Many setups. At least as many falls.
Winter is paralyzing the country, but not here.
Here, the boys are impersonating songs of indigenous
wildlife. Mockingbird on the roof of the Gun Shop,
scrub jay behind the Clear Lake Saloon.
And when she darts into a drugstore for a chocolate-covered
almond bar, sparrow hawks get the picture
and drive off in her car.
Easy as 8th & Spring Street,
a five-course meal the size of a dime.
Easy as vistas admired only from great distance,
explain away the mystery
and another thatched village is cluster-bombed.
Everyone gets what he wants nowadays.
Anything you can think of is probably true.
And so, nothing. Heaven on earth. The ruse
of answers. A couple-three-times around the block
and ignorance is no longer a good excuse.
There were none. Only moods
arranged like magazines and bones, a Coke bottle
full of roses, the dark, rickety tables about the room.
And whenever it happens, well, it’s whatever it takes,
a personality that is not who you are
but a system of habitual reactions to another
light turning green, the free flow of
traffic at the center of the universe where shops
are always open and it’s a complete
surprise each time you’re told that minding your own business
has betrayed your best friend. But that’s over,
that’s history, the kind of story that tends to have an ending,
the code inside your haunted head.
Easy as guilt. As waking and sleeping, sitting down
to stand up, sitting down to go out walking,
closing our eyes to see in the nocturnal
light of day. “Treblinka
was a primitive but proficient
production line of death,” says a former SS Untersharfurer
to the black sharecropper-grandchild of slavery
who may never get over
the banality of where we look.
Only two people
survived the Warsaw uprising, and the one
whose eyes are paths inward, down into the soft grass,
into his skeleton,
who chain-smokes and drinks, is camera shy,
wears short-sleeved shirts, manages to mumble,
“If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.”

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