by Gabrielle Freeman
Obvious fact about books of poetry: in most cases, the reader can open the book to any random page and have the full reading experience. The individual poem on the page does not usually have to be read before or after any other poem in the collection. Before anybody gets all excited, trust me, I do understand that putting a book of poetry together is very difficult and does involve order. I once compared the process to wrestling a pissed off cat. Each poem needs to at least lead in to the next or make some sort of sense when read together, even if it is not linear. However, each poem should also be able to stand on its own.
I am currently reading Bruce Covey’s book Glass Is Really a Liquid. Writing a blog post about an entire book of poetry is daunting, so I decided to try my luck and go with open-to-random-page-and-write-on-that-one. I am enjoying the book, so I wasn’t necessarily worried about which poem I would land on, but serendipity brought me to page 110.
“The Difference Between Toggle Bolts & Molly Screws” and I became instant friends at its title. Because I have spent at least an hour total in my life trying to hammer, shove, and force toggle bolts through disintegrating drywall, ditto Molly screws, I thought this poem must have something to do with force. Well, yes and no. It has more to do with the purpose or intention of the bolt/screw than its application. Both expand, in different ways, once through the drywall in order to hold tightly to the wall, thereby allowing heavy objects to be hung where there is no wall stud without, you know, ripping through your sheetrock resulting in spackled patches and copious swearing.
Now, consider the following: “I do this: press gently through your center / Nestling, mixing into your microcosmic control / Until its wings finally cross the cusp, detach, / Unfold again on the opposite side, drawing me / As close to you as relative density might allow” (lines 7-11). These lines are sexual and technical, describing human intimacy as a fastening. The metaphor of the bolt and screw offer a concrete image that the reader can visualize, and it lends beauty and reverence to ordinary items. It almost made me forgive all those minutes I’ve spent pounding away at them, and I do say that tongue in cheek. I find a nod to humor in the imagery as well. When a poem can make the reader swoon and giggle at the same time, it really works.
I do want to mention my favorite lines from the poem: “where order / the first, trace to follow up your spine & amidst / Your hair an intended & immediate kiss” (26-28). The combination of the intimate and the rather mechanical is continued here. The kiss together with the words “intended & immediate” add to the feeling of truth written in this poem. The reader believes the action and the emotion presented because the poet includes the reader in the speaker’s experience; both the words and the actions are intentional. The action of the bolt and screw are intended; they achieve their purpose immediately.
Covey, Bruce. Glass Is Really a Liquid. Reston, VA: No Tell Books, 2010.