Marjon Mossammparast, That Sight. Carlton South: Cordite Books, 2018. ISBN: 9780648056881
Within days of reading That Sight, I found myself quoting from it on a social media platform. Amidst angry backlash toward the local Council at having authorised the destruction of some trees to make way for a new building, I quoted a line from ‘(My) Country’, ‘I am the moment Gaudi grows a tree in his cathedral’ (12), wanting to highlight the moment in the monumental and vice versa. What comes into existence and ghosts its removal? The elusive ‘starting point’ Hélène Cixous muses on and teases out extensively in Philippines. Apparitions, the residual as afterimage, once eyes are closed, trees are removed, the comments lost in the web.
This is the thrill of That Sight, the spaces Mossammaparast is in dialogue with, are not transcendent, they are planes of experience. What Cixous refers to as ‘the scenes of the encounter’. The circumstantial is denied to give floor to immanence, recognition and reverie. Integration and often disintegration, lost and found, occur simultaneously, freed of geographical bounds. Slippage is everywhere and everywhere becomes sacralised. Women’s bodies are celebrated in a myriad of expressions, earthy, vital, mobile and re-balanced.
Knowledge is a single point but the ignorant have multiplied it.
A tree is a tree, a woman is a woman. The tree is a woman lifting her song,
blossoms the heart of a woman. I am her now, flowering.
This inversion of metaphor folds impossible habitations, tree is becoming a woman, song is becoming a flowering. Other encapsulates and proliferates. Awareness is brought into question and what might be perceived as visions are sensed as interpenetrations and loci. Language is vivified and given an agency which gathers power and detonates as:
women are hanged with hyphens,
strapped with adjectives, quietly like the countdown of a bomb.
Mossammaparast experiments with a variety of techniques, devices and stylistic shifts throughout the book, for the most part successfully, as a marriage of intent and form and often in ways which invite the reader’s sight to mimic an occurrence on the page or within the enunciation. Consider the physical act involved while reading the interplay of italic and stroke in the following from ‘Wife of Lot’:
Dissolving like a cathedral | the slow arc of your breath
| the refuge shelter | the dust heap | all the blue finery of birds |
You are knocking on the door | I am out of here | I am
Here is one part of the tapped magic of Mossammaparast’s poetry, a syntactic resonance which calmly surfaces a measured unsettling. Her gaze rarely lingers, crosshatched with sharp observations and clipped rhythms. Ideas move through lines with the speed of a darting eye. The poem which provides the title of the collection; ‘That Sight’ (70) with its short vowels and caesura bars, meters words across the page like a series of aural blinks. The mythic is recast as what is re-collected is encircled in the present. Or returning to ‘Wife of Lot’, ‘Turning back | for that last moment before’ (58).
This is altered time, glimpsed and relative, abbreviated and non-linear as the book’s sections, titled as, ‘Brief’, ‘Briefer’ and ‘Briefest’. A far from simple exploration of the morphology of tense.
When there’s nowhere to go we go into the past, where it all went.
Life commits us to verbs,
the subject’s meaning incomplete without its predicate.
Each image has an acute vanishing point or, in time, a disintegration. Territories are named, while the points encompassed are lost to vast, impossible distances. Names are displaced or trespassed by ‘other’ without distrust or uncertainty, rather with a deepened trust in the temporality of those signifiers. Consider the parentheses in the title of the poem ‘(My) Country’: how they contain that first word with a tight little knot.
This threading continues in ‘The Call’, ‘David reimagines the world’ as the sun rises, and his superannuation comes through, embroidered through the stasis of architecture, packed bags in a doorway and where he stands at a sink. There is a slight jar in the line, ‘The boat is anchored down the road’, the connection hovers wrongly, displaced, yet transmits again a potential exit, held, aground, immobile.
Yesterday, which was many days ago,
his wife went missing, climbing a ladder
These might be disappearances or escapes. Mossammaparast is more inclined draw our attention to where a subject has moved away from and trace an artefact, than tell where to find it. Images are unmoored, presence is recognised by flux and rest. What respires grows wild when untended. Life is bartered for, here, between words on a page, between poet and reader, where energy is expended.
Here, loss might be a starting point. The body returned to a sensuous place within nature. Politics appears, husking a kernel of future life. Within every naming is the immemorial and with that naming, both a history and the potential for awakening.
This is also why God is so deep
Deep within story, but also, ‘so deep’ as if God might be extracted or sunk in. The line appears in a poem stamped diagonally across the page with the words ‘YOU CANNOT READ THIS’ in large, bold font, obscuring the poem without rendering it illegible. Whether connoting taboo or some imagined bureaucratic denial, the reader is impelled to read beyond, through or around the stamp. It feels an awkward device to employ in conjunction with an already complex and rewarding poem, however again it is inhabited further by the humbling possibility that, where certitude is peripheral to our focus, the idea of God abides, embodied and sometimes breathing.
Cixous, Hélène. 2011. Philippines. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press.
Amanda Joy is a poet and visual artist living in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has written two poetry chapbooks. Her full length book of poetry, Snake Like Charms was published through UWAP in 2017 and she is currently working on a manuscript titled ‘Map, Stranger’.