bruce dethlefsen | breather

13 12 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 303 | December 13, 2009

Bruce Dethlefsen

Here are four poems from Bruce Dethlefsen’s third, most recent book of poems, BREATHER, Fireweed Press, 2009, $15. He previously published two chapbooks, A DECENT REED, Tamafyhr Mountain Press, and SOMETHING NEAR THE DANCE FLOOR, Marsh River Editions—a particularly fine Wisconsin small press.

Dethlefsen puts his life in the line in all these poems, immediately engaging the reader. No easy task. His life recognizably becomes yours in a breath. What he has working for him is flat-out honesty. Not to mention humor, a sense of place, and a poet-storyteller’s ability to leave you with more than mere words.

I love the poems but hate this book.

Hate the physical make-up of pages, cover and binding that prevent the reader from opening it, let alone comfortably perusing the text. Maybe my copy is the exception, and if so, my apologies. But this is one of those books designed like a mousetrap you’re constantly struggling to keep open, lest the ‘spring-structure’ of the too-tight binding, snap the whole damn book CLOSED in your hands—just as you were getting close to the last line of another particularly good poem. It’s a tiring process. I usually throw these books to the floor, never finish them.

I don’t blame the author. Or even the publisher. Though publishers should be mindful of the quality of work of the printers they hire. If you’re thinking of printing a book in Wisconsin Rapids sometime—be careful. —norbert blei

Read Aloud

as the child reaches
underneath the book
to help the father prop it up
their hands touch
underneath the book
and the story resumes

When Somebody Calls After Ten P.M.

when somebody calls after ten p.m.
and you live in Wisconsin
and you’re snug in your bed

then all’s I can tell you
somebody better be missing
somebody better had a baby
or somebody better be dead

The Way of the Poet Warrior

(for Thomas Lux)

throw the ball back to the pitcher better
——————————–-Bang the Drum Slowly

pay perfect attention to what’s going on
what’s going under
and what’s going on under

question everything that moves
interrogate everything that doesn’t

daydream deliberately
use your x-ray vision
but pay no attention to those little editors
behind the curtain

shower and sleep with pen and paper
don’t let the big one get away

keep your antenna up
but if the voices get too bad
wear a square of aluminum foil
under your watch cap

learn each rule then break each rule
be prepared to read anything
anytime anywhere for nothing

learn humility
what do you think you’re some kind of genius?
there’s always a faster gun in town

when you’re with others
try to act normal
as if all this matters somehow
walk as though you have somewhere to go
when you’re alone float for all I care

connect the strings you see
that flutter in the wind
eat bruised fruit
howl at the moon from time to time

dance with everyone
even before you hear the music come

learn another language
memorize

know that although it seems like it
not everything is poetry

understand that one average plumber
is worth five good doctors
or three great poets

in short pay attention
write better
and yes the flying dreams are the best

November Lake

my parents dead my wives unwed alone
I moved into the cottage by the cove
to watch november lake until it froze

the leaves had all but fallen from the trees
no crying of the loon no southern breeze
I’m free to be and do just what I please

there’s no one left to make those second guesses
no one here to hear my sins confessed
and if I sneeze my sneeze remains unblessed

no food no drink no heat my hunger grows
the final gnawing question I suppose is
what noise makes a casket as it closes

[from: BREATHER, Fireweed Press, 2009]








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