Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Julie Doxsee in Shampoo

The current issue of the online poetry journal Shampoo has some wonderful postmodern poetry. I love poetry that is challenging, even a bit oblique, yet well-crafted and with a sense of unity. Today, I've been looking at this poem by Julie Doxsee:


Clouds take blue from could. Could be clouds are
the rind of a ripe sky.

An outside eye holds all lakes and oceans in one

The body casts an object onto its shadow two or
three times. An eclipse lives nowhere then wrestles
awake. Nighttime can’t stretch darkness when the
moon is engulfed by noise.

Hold a piece of dust at arm’s length and watch its
two-dimensional twin burn at noon. Gray stranger,
make your gray a happier thing. Nighttime erases as
it grows over the eye.

The earth’s rind forms the hard outer layer where
fruit sprouts. Leaves detach from xylem after
sucking skin. A rock conducts its upside-down

Discovery invites the collapse of something high.
Sky. Paradise. Wing-pilot. Echelon. Uncrater
holding bits of ground.

Uncover the rock. Fig leaves fall off and die, but
there are more fig leaves in a grove you’ll visit

Julie Doxsee
Issue 27

When approaching a poem like this--lots of wonderful imagery that may seem at first to be unconnected--it's a good idea to start with the imagery that strikes you. For me, the idea of an "eclipse" is what captured me first. In the third stanza, the "body cast an object onto its shadow--" the body in front of the sun creating its own small eclipse, resulting in shadow. "An eclipse lives nowhere--" it does not exist until that blockage of sun by an object, when it "wrestles awake." When viewed in the context of the title, "Erosion," we can imagine a sense of the self fading in the darkness of an eclipse, of some bit of self eroding off and forming shadow.

In the next stanza, the narrator continues the imagery of shadow and light. "Hold a piece of dust at arm's length." Now we have moved from a large body eclipse to a tiny particle of dust. Even something that tiny exists and has form; but at noon you can see its "two dimensional twin burn at noon--" the eroded shadow created by the blockage of light. This stanza ends with night, as does the previous stanza; the night "erases / as it grows over the eye." Here, the self erodes away into non-existence in the creeping darkness.

Think of this poem in terms of erosion or fading; of covering and uncovering; of the boundaries of self and how light and dark affect the existence of self. What do you see? How do you read this poem?


MB said...

I have a question, Amy: are the stanzas really separated like that, with the third set (et seq) set off from the first two?

Amy said...

Hi, MB; yes, that is how the stanzas are set. Interesting, eh? Click on the link to Shampoo, and navigate to Doxsee's poem to see the original.

MB said...

Interesting: it looks like the first and second, as well as the third and fourth, stanzas are tied by proximity. There'll be a reason for that, I'll warrant...

Anonymous said...

I see lots of sand in this. I can't help it. This evokes an image of a sandstorm for me. I also see a body (quite literally) and the image is pregnant. (body casting an object...)

Anonymous said...

I meant to say welcome back. I hope you are feeling better. I was reading up on the condition.

Robin said...

I love the poem.

MB said...

I've read this several times now. It's rich! I like the way the notion of the "sky rind" propels me out of the atmosphere to the "outside eye" that has a relationship to lakes and oceans. That sets up the eclipse quite nicely. It took me several readings, however, to decode as many of the interrelationships that are expressed here as I have. And I'm sure I may have missed some!

Amy said...


Thanks for the good wishes. That's a good observation, about the "rind" serving as the edge of an eclipse, and it's relationship to the outside eye. The changes in perspective in this poem are wide and complex.

T L:

It's interesting that you see sand; it makes sense to me, given the title and the nature of sand. It moves and can be formed into various shapes.


I love it too.

Amy said...

It is like breathing fresh air to be back on my blog again. Reading all the astute commments makes me feel much less alone in my strange love of words.