Impressions in the Language of a Lantern’s Wick by Jake Syersak
Ghost Proposal, 2016
Chapbook – Ghost Proposal
this is where the absent flowers / get watered
Like a water-walking John Cage in front of an in-patient studio audience, Jake Syersak performs simultaneously as deliberate interrupter of the line, devoted interpreter of cavernous shadows, and spirited conductor of light in a repeatedly erased world of smeary, blackboard darkness. “& how many warplanes are named after birds?” our war-bored hero wonders, pausing our eyes into an always-underlying mantle, clausing us away from and into a shutter cycle of challenging subjects and voices, halting us and steering us into orchestrated sequences with an alliterative punctuality all their own. Impressions in the Language of a Lantern’s Wick is pretty much something a lyrically-possessed illusionist-cum-musician banged out of their piano-mouth, humming against the typewriter-like ticking of a catalytic stopwatch. It’s a compelling self-composing music of dial-tones and weather-vanes and bombs and birdsongs and it’s sketched itself high onto the tower of an architect’s ink-dripping drafting desk. It leaves an impression. Like a floor plan. Or a polaroid.
What keeps you squinting is what’s growing the eyelid’s grain. Its pupil a felt tip.
Like a lantern cutting slowly into indecipherable darkness, Syersak slowly exposes a music behind what we might normally not think to consider. Whether it’s the noise of an accidentally stepped-on “beetle’s armor” or the out-of-sightness of a sunflower root’s “knuckles,” readers are provided with unique variations of seeing even after they’ve closed their eyes. The action or, rather, the sound of the action becomes a sort of paint that gradually spreads itself across the mind. The download-like gradualness of the ever-developing pictures, page after page, is often enhanced by the way in which the enjambment unfurls. An image eventually “pixelates” and strings itself into existence. Each poem convulsantly exposes a Romantic musicality in the seemingly commonplace or every-day. A picture forms as your eyes scan a clamor of pain signals:
slap a mosquito
d on my neck
I was immersed in, impressed with this chapbook’s careful use of negative space. So much of Impressions in the Language of a Lantern’s Wick seems obsessed not exclusively with sound, but with physical status as well—whether it’s the body of an insect, a human being, or the text itself. The above execution of negative space was particularly fascinating. It, the action of the slapping combined with the implied instantaneous destruction of the mosquito’s body, actually illustrates without physically illustrating itself on the page. A similar phenomena occurs in one of my favorite sequences, “Of Chickenblood, Peonies, Lascaux & Mosquitoes,” in which a boy, crayon in hand, is turned loose in a Cy Twombly gallery:
Escorted out of Chicago’s Art
So much tension exists in the separation of “Art” and “Institute” and such a void is rendered with an image of petals—aka a non-flower. No connection, a missing stem. It appears the Garden’s pride is always-already exhausted, pluck’d. Somewhere among those isolated words—that flower-less image—readers are forced to make things somehow “cohere,” to make their own connections. What is the relationship between art and a building of policies and restrictions? Again, Syersak’s line breaks never come across as frivolous. His spasming conductor’s baton jolts and directs us with a purpose: to wake us from a cruel anesthesia, to remove the heavy clock-arms weighting us into numbness.
a fog lights dog-ear evening closer, closed