Sharon Mesmer

Kimberly Lyons
Abracadabra
Granary Books, 2000, 104 pp., $12.00. [Order from SPD]

The title suggests that ta-da! things will appear from thin air! And they do! And you go "ahhh ... oooh ... " But then you realize a deeper magic is at work, because these things are only the familiar objects of the human quotidian appliance cords, sweaters, biscotti, orange Formica chairs revisioned from and refracted off a certain slant of poetic sensibility that is never really "local" despite its aura of proximity. The real trick is that you're seeing all those familiar objects for the first time.

In re-imagining the familiar, Kim works a rich personal aesthetic: the comic beef-tongue surrealism of Chicago's mid-Seventies Yellow Press poets; the urbane off-hand referencings of the early New York School; the precise mathematics of Language poetries, recapitulated in something all her own: a kind of suave melancholy that in one moment mourns and celebrates the "intangibility of disturbances on the street." And those disturbances those Rimbauldian "seasons" contained in moments are the true revelators. Like a mystic, Kim believes it's the ordinary everyday stuff that divulges. In "Details and Incidents," it's

... cords of appliances that thwart
casual obfuscation of objects.
Wet forgotten laundry
& the old shed out back
where the documents are kept.
Receipts in caved-in boxes ...

that constitute the treasures of the re-visioned landscape. In Koranic exegesis there's this word: ta'wil. In his book on the Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, Henry Corbin explains that ta'wil  means to "'carry back' literal statements to that which they symbolize and of which they are the 'cipher'" exoteric statements read through to their esoteric underpinnings and thus suggesting (among other things) a moment of linguistic union between mundane and luminous.  And according to Davidson's Dictionary of Angels, the word "Abracadabra" while being one of the most ancient words in magic (it derives, so it is said, from the Hebrew ha brachah dabarah : “speak the blessing”), is also related to the name Abraxas, the Supreme Unknown in gnostic theogony, who acted as mediator between the earthly and the divine. Those ordinary cords, then, are at this very moment thwarting the casual for you, refashioning the mundane into the luminous did you see it? No? Well, there's also the laundry, just washed and lying piled up in the basket in back of the shed. How about that? No? Okay, how about those old boxes. ... There are unlimited opportunities for manifestation, if you just look and see beyond the "ugly pink and gray Montefiore Hospital mug" to the perfect coffee therein.

In "Cafe Silverio," things become other things as a way of demonstrating that heady equilibrium of outer and inner:

the ground
could be the
roof
of an inordinate mouth

Stems tweaked
antennas provoked
the static interrupts static.

The expository cadence
of seasons
melds to other graphic musics.

I felt vertiginous as I looked
forward into the tunnel of trees ...

Vertiginous indeed! The view is breathtaking, and it changes all the time. Now you're looking at a pile of papers, now a tambourine, now a sweater of "classically obdurate particles." Ah, the excessive pleasures of these disturbances ... if only one knew how to read them properly ...

The poet provides an answer in "Biscotti": by learning to perceive, to see "condition, rather than motion." There's something of (& please bear with me for a second!) confessional poetry here, but not so much the poetry itself as who you were (& maybe I mean "I") when you first read that poetry: you were an open channel for the vicissitudes of moments. You were young, you understood what a difference a day makes, but a day contained in a moment. You could go from outside-on-the-sidewalk to inside-the-department-store, and the slight shift of light by the automatic doors revealed something of Eternity. Kim is a poet of such moments: the changes, the transformations, the little invisible victories and defeats in the arrivals and departures of thoughts:

... patches, duration.
Rather than continuity,
spheres, cycles.

I try to write it at a slant.
Now, not even located.

And, speaking as an epileptic, Kim's colors . . .

As the train blew in
white rectangles
came from my bag ...

The blueness of
wooden
transformative hands ...

Orange formica chairs
and slices of
gum ...

The puffed white facets
of an enormous room ...

are like Rimbaud's colors: further revelators of where we're headed into the mystery, which, in this case, is "Side Shows by the Seashore" again, the unity of outer and inner (the side shows/the seashore), this time provided by Coney Island.

Reading Kim always reminds me of times I discovered something: cooking, from M.F.K. Fischer's Consider the Oyster, the permeable beauty of obdurate form, from Adrian Stokes' Stones of Rimini. And that's the real magic, isn't it? To move someone into a place of seeing the familiar anew:

a sight unseen requires nothing
but you gave everything to its beauty

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