June 01, 2004

Eileen Tabios's "Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole."

Eileen Tabios's Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole is an endless swoon. Reading it puts you in a state of suspension -- to misquote her, "an emotion you will welcome as a discovery." Like a flag torn from its moorings, borne aloft, knowing no nation, just the wind, her poetry is the essence of sensual drift and travel.

But I'm wrong, of course: the central image, after all, is the empty flagpole, or rather, what remains: traces of languorous Manhattan afternoons, the lingering of strangers in cafes and deserts, the cinders of urban longing and belonging.

But these conjured scenarios of wisp and wander conceal a steely interior: "For she has trained men to kneel and she is replete." It's romantic in the extravagant sense of the word, and the reader's obligation is to surrender. Let go, she whispers in your ear. Let go.

[Actual conversation with airport baggage inspector the other day:

Inspector: [looking at cover] What is that?
Me: I think it's a close-up of a plant.
Inspector: [looking puzzled] And what does the title mean?
Me: [thinking fast] Not sure. [Pause, then adding lamely:] It's a book of poetry.
Inspector: Ah, that's why.]

Posted by the wily filipino at June 1, 2004 03:26 PM