A Response to The Ghost in Us was Multiplying (Noemi Press, 2015)
“That’s where I buried the clocks, / in case you’re wondering. The coils / inside them: stammered.”
From “Casual Sex”
It’s taken me months to write this review. I have sat pondering the scrolling narratives of Brent’s characters, Brent’s many disparate and loving selves. I have deemed the value of my own self. I have gripped curtain, lifted heel, and challenged my presence in the air. Things have flowed. Blockages have formed. There has been physical illness and there has been decreased stamina. I have begun to notice things I thought were worthless, to be shoved away, in strange softly-lit circumstances. I have done my share of shoving and now there is the pull. Like an instruction or a proclamation in some symbolic space of the most earnest, Brent’s call has been recovered.
“Instead of lunch / I cut the vowels / out of my homework. I push / my tongue through holes / in paper. A man / outside the window. / How else can I write / and still not say? / I’m such a hungry – / glory, the distance I can’t / pronounce. This is the most / I’ve ever – a hole / and everyone inside it.”
from “Thieves’ Cant”
Here I am. Writer to share. Confronting the wall of wails and whispers, astounding shrieks and solemn coercing projections of truth of a book of poetry worthy of the time and space of and for all. The multiplication of the ghosts that have been scattered, dispersed, appropriately arisen from page to page. It glimmers, gleam. Beckons even through the close of the last page, the tapping shut of a small book, destined 100 pages. What once may have been a convex mirror is, through verse as riveting as uncomfortably raw, a cubist’s mosaic of glass.
“Sex is our molecules in orbit between the husks of self.”
It hits home. The many homes. Home in the face again and again it hits, but mostly it hits with soft, unoppressive force. The writing: strong enough to make me feel collapsed, collapsed enough, buried beneath the many impervious natures we need, we encounter and embrace or reject, our own realities mixed and congealed safely.
“The blood / can be viewed from a satellite, the way that // mourning spills immediately through the minus / sign, through the semblance of a bowl.”
From “The Flight Cage”
We are all so individual, aren’t we? Or are we the same? Brent is merely he who knows the touch, the way to corrode those paths familiar with image and sound distinct and acute. Corrode: make new through reformation. Make unforgettable. You will be haunted by that which you do not know. And yet that which you created will be the heart of what haunts. It’s a birthing process as much as a molting process. A magical swirl of energies as brightly unfamiliar as duly and thoroughly ancient. Energies: those which exemplify how language makes the heart necessary. Italics. Emphasis. Arousal.
“I gnaw at love down inside / the brackets – not my salt can / retrieve it, but somehow water // rises, like letters arrange themselves / and break apart from sentences.”
From “A Hole in the Bucket”
It is difficult to keep myself from ushering you into each and every poem in the text. The tomb of the tome is its own, eager understanding of itself, as a whole, perched above. Beyond deconstruction: the next layer on fire, the trail of image mimicking its own. A mimic, an understanding of the meta above meta, a distant but zeroed multiplication. To understand you must read, and then by reading you will understand yourself reading. London, on fire, but more importantly: the self, then, setting the self on fire (so we may all see better).
“What separates the face / from the face behind the window? / Not distance, but time, which is maybe real / but see-through. When a rock / hits the glass, time cracks. / We measure nothing / until we first repair.”
From “Narrow Hallways”
The book: four sections. First Person Zero. Second Person Echo. Third Person Radio. Fourth Person Window. Each quarter built with symbol. Each quarter built with purpose. Each quarter built upon the others, to form equality. That which is sincere is that which is insecure. These are processes. This book is about disease, but it is about satisfaction. It is about knowing. These are only some things the book is about. I would like to hear what you think. What are they to you? How do you find them? What are they?
“The quietness after fucking / filled the room with moths. A moth / is when we stopped breathing / long enough to be alive. / What if x equals / all the winged zeroes // we forgot / on the way to how old we are / divided by a drought? A thousand exhalations / to spend the way we choose.”
When fear dawns there is only a pushing outward. You may push back, but you push toward the other. And then: resilience. And then: comeuppance. There is a gentleness to arise through every crisis. Catharsis is blue and it is red. But it is mostly about that which it is not, and the book suggests a space existing before where you may find out. I think about Brent’s ritual understanding of objects, of time, and of how that shattered glass upon us defines us, a loop, layer upon layer, image upon image, curiously unending, unbending until we twitch. And then we do shift. And our identity grows. And we learn it. The Ghost is filled with this form of love, this form of redemption, this form of exquisite recovery. There is the recovery of that which was perhaps lost. And the recovery of that which we never knew to be existing in the first place. The Ghost is about growth through challenge.
“A man falls within inches of me in the grocery store while I study the loaves of bread. At first I’m mad at him. White bubbles from his mouth, a spasm in his legs. I put my hand on his shoulder. I don’t know what to do. Whose shoulder? Whose hand belongs to whom? Then the crowd and 911 and someone to steady his head, the blood pulsing outside the body, a dark red halo.”
Writers get honored for their craft of scene. Brent’s strength as a writer is defined by his strength as a human: to memorialize and codify those characters in his scenes. Memory achieves a difficult but deserved peace. A peace of mind, but also a peace of place: where the humanity within is built upon recognition, organization, and representation. Brent’s “other” is an “other” worth knowing, because it contributes to so much of the self. I cannot see Brent’s work without his characters, his world, without that slightly beyond the body and mind of the poet. The environment is awareness, an extension of the senses and perceptions of the writer: it is a lifeline connecting existence to that self which is busy existing.
“All wet things / concede to gravity. See / that girl adjusting her ponytail / in the reflection of the bus shelter. That young man / who walked around the block, / I used to sell him groceries, / and that woman / is she his mother?”
From “Dear Documentary,”
I do not know Brent’s world thoroughly, which makes The Ghost entirely readable, rereadable, and enjoyable. There are moments of depression deeper than plague. There is joy and ecstasy bright and filled with mirth. There is heavy contemplation. There are so many moving bodies and living people, people existing between the blinks of the eyes, and as the blinks of the eye: the grey space merging both together.
“Will there be a day when my legs resemble stilts, when my body pivots loosely in the shell? Illness is believing the stilts have their own memory. The crane doesn’t whisper it says future. Feed everything you have to the birds. The birds are never going to leave this place or remember you by name.”
From “Strange Cousins”
There is a feeling of credit given to the reader through accepting the outwardly invitation to join Brent’s space. I think of words like “intimacy” and “trust.” I think of words like “forgiveness” but that word is mostly for myself, and what I borrowed from Brent’s gift of writing. I forgive myself for not looking as thoroughly at my own world’s struggles. But then I know of the link, and the way planes of existence mingle and melt. It is calm to have read that the multiplication is epistemological: a truth is natural, a fiber of the being. The poems speak, and through their words we can feel more secure knowing how close together our lives really are.
note: Greg Bem first discovered Brent's work during a Seattle reading at Vermillion.