The hocus-pocus gnosis of this world

This is from the final two lines of “Song,” in Dean Young’s new book, Fall Higher. I love the unique way he expresses the odd juxtapositions that somehow create what we perceive as meaning–the hocus-pocus gnosis.

He’s not an easy poet; his poems tend to be long, his images dense and unusual. He tweaks language and imagery to break through our assumptions–advertising slogans, instructions, the language of the everyday is stood on its head so that we are forced to examine it.

Sprinkled through his poems are brave assertions that few poets would dare to make, a quest for meaning, and a quirky sense of humor. A few samples:

There is a part of the spirit that cannot be destroyed.


It only gets dark
half the sky at a time.


Do you think the dictionary ever says to itself
I’ve got these words that mean completely different things
and it’s tearing me apart?

or, as a book title:

First Homosexual in Space

One of my favorites is “I Know My Friends Will Laugh,” from his book Strike Anywhere. I can’t seem to make the indentations come out exactly right (the lines under the first line in the stanza should all be indented), so for the full effect, you’ll need to buy the book:

I Know My Friends Will Laugh

but I think there’s so much spirit-stuff in this world that even
the dust kicked up on the trail above Tomales swirls and
maneuvers and gestures, alive for an instant because to be
alive is always for an instant.

My friends will say I’ve been in California too long but within
the dust there’s some further puffing up as the love in any
of us puffs up for the ineffable because love is always for
the ineffable even when she’s giggling in your arms, your
tongue in her ear.

Not the likelihood of not loving enough—stone dark with
condensed fog—although that too is spirit’s residing,
another lease, detective novels abandoned on the shelf,
pages falling out, binding crust, silverfish flashing.

Because when the spirit is divided, torn apart as it seems it
must be, the head keeps singing in the lion’s mouth even as
the body, fallen to its knees, pats the ground for some
dropped key, some broken jewelry, each tooth and claw
mark a new mouth, new eyelids opening on the next world.

I’m not even sure there is a next world.

Perhaps death is just unloosening, release, the way the rose
petals all drop at once just as Christina said they would.

Part of me says nothing like these petals and dust, part of me
says everything petals and dust.

By now my friends are nearly choking on their beers but part of me
sees my father’s chawed face the day they brought him
home from the golf course like something God bit, didn’t
like, threw back.

Part of me sees supper laid out while I shake snow from my coat.

Sees dusk ignite cattails into sheaves of light.

Sees the ant’s entrance through the smashed owls eye into

My friends, what should I believe?  Even the lice are trembling.

Dean Young

Because he recently had a heart transplant, you can also donate to the fund that is helping defray expenses for this.

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