Pleasure, by Brian Teare

Pleasure, by Brian Teare

Pleasure

Pleasure, by Brian Teare
(69 pps/Ahsahta Press, 2010)
ISBN: 9781934103166

In Pleasure, poet Brian Teare repossesses one of our oldest stories of identity: the fall from innocence. Pleasure contains an intertwined narrative: in one, a man recounts the experience of watching his loved one sicken and die at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. He is blindsided, as stigma and fear replace what he comes to recognize as a former state of grace.

In this fall, he comes to understand that Eden is the idea of a closed garden, a mythic place that is an ideal no one can ever return to. It is a memory one creates, perhaps helplessly, in defiance of loss:

… dead says Let there be a record,

dead says Let memory live a little

longer, dead says Do not forsake me,

dead says and says and this is

our common immunology…

The memory, the story, replaces what was once real:

…I author this Eden

to keep you near. Understand? Outside, the real garden

withers, too; the door warps and on the hottest days

won’t let me out of the lyric, which can’t keep anything

alive. I’ll tell you how I feel: fuck the real.

From this impossible place, a cold, flawless plot, Teare’s second narrative springs: it is the story of storytelling itself– how the mythic reality we create, our individual and collective Edens, become inextricable from the actual. The act of creating these stories, or Language, Teare asserts, could be seen as the snake in the garden, both the way we acknowledge our mortality, and the way we try to outwit it:

And the snake,

lumen skin

of alphabets, rubbing his stomach in the dust…

flickered and split

and new

black sinew out of the slough dead lettered vellum

legless crept and let fall wept

whisper, hiss, paperhush:

with the skin

language left behind I bind time to memorial…

Teare’s choice to reclaim the Eden story is particularly powerful, as it is a protected narrative, one so carefully guarded in some interpretations that to re-write it could be considered an act of blasphemy, a spiritual crime. This is illustrative of one of the many points Teare makes about nature of language, and of storytelling, and its intrinsic connection to our mortality: we are caught between the reality of experience, and the alternate, fleshless body we weave in story:

O Deus, I remember: Self and Other,

and between us every elegy, all the fallen

Language that couldn’t hold it’s own

and wouldn’t give it back, had no flesh

except how long dust keeps our alphabets…

Pleasure isn’t an intellectual exercise. Though its concepts are heady, the poetry isn’t sacrificed for the ideas: it is wrested from them. Pleasure is filled with music. It is powered by grief, but the kind that rises on a spiral of emotional force that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The reward of Pleasure is Teare’s honesty, skill, and soft, insistent ferocity, acknowledging to the reader that we are living a shared, evolving manuscript:

…what was wordless, what passed as fact :

late summer outside the windows :

dim doors struggling shut; wind

an umbrella open against dull sun;

to keep them clean, all the small dogs in sweaters;

all theories of the real :

a ruin somehow intact…

Meanwhile: the spectacular disaster

of the actual.

Listen to Brian Teare read from Pleasure, here.

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