The White Colossus
by Enne Baker


"I am graveled,
The thought of
Feeling two
Heartbeats underneath my
Feet"

The title poem illustrates this collection's themes and tenor. It is the most compact of all the selections, consisting of a paragraph list of varied, compound nouns. Together, they take on the shape and sound of a single, complex object. Some are the names of plants, while others are made-up terms or emotions. The rest of the collection opens up nouns, not the ones from the list, but similar complex concepts from the inside out. The parts that make up the compound are taken apart and put back together in a new way. Many poems deal with juxtapositions and opposites. For example, in "Crossover Cove," a black night scene is punctuated by stars "[l]ike heaven-colored tulips." In "Wipe-Out," the narrator likens himself to peeled off Wite-Out in crossed-out lines. In another, "tea is / Spilt, with polka dot / Drops" after a staid dance. In "Death & Non-Profit," a subject fights for survival in a battle between generosity and greed. Darkness, discord, and death occasion a creative, enlivening response.

The poems represent a variety of forms—short, long, ballad, and free verse—but all strive toward unity, however uneasy or strained. Homo Lazarus, in the poem of the same name, seeks union as he rises above Serbian and Yoguslavian divisions. "I" and "you" tug and pull in dialogue, sometimes between two people, or man and God, and sometimes as a single voice. Some poems occur in hospitals where the mind and body work to stay intact despite treatment. "Cystoscopy" is the best example of a poem that insists on opposites staying together. "The pleasure hurts," a patient says. "I cannot unsee my / Invaded body." The curt declaration of one's pain is bold and empowering. Imagination and reality blend and inform each other in these poetic moments with a colossal edifying impact.

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