Earthquake Season

by on Dec.13, 2010, under Books, Los Angeles

At a reading for her book of poems Earthquake Season, Jessica Goodheart read a new poem, an elegy for Jdimytai Damour, the Wal-Mart worker who died in a 2008 Black Friday stampede on Long Island. Of course there was a clear note of anger in the poem, but it wasn’t by far the loudest sound; the consumer megalith behind Damour’s death was too easy a target for the poet. (Which came as a nice surprise, because I know Jessica through economic justice work.) The poem looks past capitalism to look directly at the atavisms and animal currents it organizes.

Time and time again in these poems, the organizing fictions of civilization come to seem like a thin fence around the jungle. (Jessica lives near me in a woodsy corner of Northeast Los Angeles where coyotes regularly dine on cats.) Consider the concise, hopeless decree that opens “Caesarean”: “What’s inside must stay inside/what’s outside should be smooth.” The voice often seems like it is on the verge of abandoning the pretense that wildness can be suppressed from even the simplest interactions.  “Instructions for the House Sitter”:

4.

Refill the dog’s dish in the evening.

But do not walk him unless

you are prepared to go as he does,

on all fours, weathering hours of solitude

Until the very end, it’s a funny, charming picture of wildness, a child’s game; but for me, “hours of solitude” uncovers something terrible and unseen. That moment, deftly underplayed, of looking past the veil into the darkness comes up again and again in Earthquake Season.

Buy Earthquake Season at Amazon.com

Jessica Goodheart at Word Press

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