It’s always more than a blue tarp over firewood

I read Matt Hart’s “Radiant Action.”  Here’s where I read it.


I like to travel.  Most people do too.  The word “travel” itself is pretty insufficient in aptly describing the way one likes to spend time in a place that’s not their own.  You’ve got your cruise ship people, where the point of going somewhere is to be able to go nuts on all the luxuries that we can’t possibly enjoy in normal life.  You’ve got your modern sojourners, people who strap a huge pack on and take to the woods, perhaps to feel some sense of personal victory over being a millennial with a squishy body and dope-like addictive tendencies towards all things internet.

Personally, I always got a rise out of really normal stuff when I go to a new place.  If I’m staying with a friend in a new city, of course I’m excited to see “the sights” a little bit, but if I’m being honest, most tours and landmarks are so caked with the cheese that is “THANK YOU FOR VISITING CITY X! AIN’T IT SWELL?!” it’s hard to concentrate on what’s good about it at all.  I want to see where a friend gets his or her coffee every morning, I want to see where they go to read a book, the friend’s house they like to hang out at, the breakfast place they go to stave off a hangover, the bar that gave them the hangover in the first place.

The point is, is that it’s in the very normal where I find the most residue of humanity.  This is why I like Matt Hart’s excerpt from “Radiant Action” published in Ghost Town’s most recent online issue.

If you’re still reading this after my indulgent ramble, you should probably read his poem too.

Hart lays images before us that are perfectly suggestive in describing Michigan.  Line 2 is a sensory knock out, describing the state as “mostly grass stain.”  Immediately we get the visual and the physical, and maybe even a little smell in there too (I don’t know about you, but my nose was immediately filled with fresh cut grass).  From there on out it’s a deluge of plain images spun together to make this Anywhere, America landscape more dreamy.  There’s that old go-to with poetry: make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar.  The single stanza flows from the static yet red-wheelbarrow-ish image of the “blue tarp over firewood” into the more fluid “loving phantasm.”

The static and dull imagery flowing into the fluid and ethereal give the poem a good sense of balance, the ethereal breathing life into the static and the static hardening the wispiness.  It serves as a good reminder that a place isn’t either of these things exclusively, but all of them at once.