The Mechanical Bird

The Mechanical Bird

By Aparna Sanyal

A review of The Mechanical Bird by Asa Boxer

Published on October 1, 2007

The Mechanical Bird
Asa Boxer

Vehicule Press
$16
paper
78pp
978-1-55065-227-7

There is a panoramic quality to this book, which takes us into the heart of the natural and man-made worlds, offers insights on war and terror, and penetrates the lives of individuals and relationships. Despite the collection’s scope, it possesses great integrity of voice and vision.

In one of the opening poems, entitled “The Traveller,” the poet announces:

The traveller’s wish is to
touch the vanishing point,
to arrive at the crux, to stand
in the deepest place.

It is an apt introduction. We are led, like travellers, to ponder the polar bear, who “mills like a vacationer” but whose “fur / is a white fire blazing from his charred-black skin”; the restless mind of a sleeping cat; the turtle, who wishes to “come so near death as to learn / the secrets of eternity…”; and other beasts, insects, and plants, each of which is contemplated so intently that it becomes the incarnation of a mood.

People, in both their political and personal dimensions, are also fixed with Boxer’s relentless gaze. The searing “In Hitler’s Holy Land” declares that “Hitler is the unnamed father of the Holy Land,” and bitterly advises:

You must give your golden
teeth and clip your nails
and shear
your hair and keep your gaze
upon the ground while
suicides blow
their deadly flowers everywhere,
and your children
pick bones.

The same gaze commiserates with the dishwasher “Amad,” who “wouldn’t murder,” just “wants a girlfriend,” but is constricted by “soldiers at the border.”

These poems often unveil warring drives or concepts at the very core of existence: “the sap that seals the score / and suckles a thousand stems will capture and kill a fly.” If there is any criticism to be made of them, it is that some of this territory is too well-travelled. This poet’s great artistry might be better exercised in remoter regions. mRb

Aparna Sanyal is editor of the mRb.

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