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Brynne Barnes on Jessica Bozek

The BodyFeel Lexicon

Jessica Bozek

Switchback Books 2009

 

Jessica Bozek’s right-but-wrong way of wordplay in The BodyFeel Lexicon entrances the reader with the “squint-essential” montage of two unidentified lovers, Wolf and Leon Szklar, who correspond across time and space.  The collection of fragmented notes and letters hail from the North American tundra in a former wolf den above the Arctic Circle.  Found by the editor, these documents remained undisturbed and preserved over time as they were wrapped in Peary caribou skin and tucked away in the den.

 

The book is a rather clever reproduction of the letters exchanged between the two, maintaining the order of the found documents (referred to by the editor as The Peary Assemblage), where each section was bound and titled.

 

Bozek’s collection calls for us to brace ourselves in the introductory poem: “The Calendar was the Safest Thing They Ever Read” - this poetry being far from it.  The circumstances under which these poems were authored and re-authored hint at an intimacy too hauntingly forbidden to resist.  While it is believed that Wolf has disappeared, Bozek weaves a delicate lace that holds us closely within the grasp of her existence, even as Wolf wrote, “pretending herself halfway across the world”:

 

They promised to send stamps, to seek out fictile surfaces for their correspondence. 

Inside a birdhouse-for-big-birds they secreted the

shuttering embraces, alarm-eyes & winnowed paint chips.  Their

collection of wheels they split by century.  One set, from a kaiserin’s

carriage, they sent to auction.  He wrapped her wrap in tissue paper.

She traded his teeth for hunting savvy.  Plots in hand, they spent a last

day in human quiet, wind soft-pedaled animality. 

 

Goodbye toothpaste & damage-sift.  Goodbye calendrical urges.  Goodbye they waved & wavered.

 

Bozek’s rhythm is hypnotic, like a song one would sing to a child at night with half-mooned eyes; it is by way of lullaby that this poet awakens the reader to a wonderfully mismatched world of language and identity.  The correspondence captured in letters written to and from Leon, her memory and self whisks the reader into a world of whimsy where identity becomes indiscernible.

 

(from The Stationer’s Transport)

 

through panes and across sheets, perception yields

here, in the margins, my body-ghosts happen

though filaments are slippery, hems stay threaded in the wind

on the savanna no new-season snow

I repeat your name and follow horizontals

distracted hands make sludge of a self

as rough rounds corkscrew the sky

the grounds of my love —- sweat-peel, tragus-ring smatter, cuticalia —-

air-lit by the replica moons of a three-hole punch

 

Bozek creates her own language - a lexicon where language is body and body is the spatial harbor for memories and emotions, preparing “your skeleton to suit another skin.”  It is a formula, a theory where memory is fluid and transmittable; it is viscously “scent & seasonal, when movement will be fast & fur-hard.”  Likewise, time is tangible and materialized only within page-jambs like a blanketed parcel in a cave.

 

from The Geometry Transport

 

I left leaning

 

against your half-

walls —- something

 

to remember me down.

 

Thus, the reader is placed within Bozek’s space via page-turns into the “human quiet” of the writing (and re-writing) of self.  Once finished, the reader will awaken from the haze of a dream - having sleepwalked in someone else’s skin, wondering if “you are still you —- not physically.  Voraciously.”

 

Cheers, I say.  We’ll dream to that.

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