Sarah Dowling reads Erin Moure


The inevitable proposition survived as content
After the fins were eaten or laid down, the tablecloth gently


& our knees beneath that

was a serenity a

a vocabulary or doubt

A smooth haze westerly scudded —
How do you know
To say here


or —

Palimpsest a settled Rome vernacular
Pulling its luscious cord her grandest soutane fell

an immense cloth addressed with tender stitching
that later looked “like chives”

we rolled over onto it
this every girl must sate or do
this every girl must astonish or tonality


trigger a

lip, sheen, mar, glossalial, glea

Otto imbroglio
a silence wept here it was so tentativeø
or femur gaze

Thus “I” became a transitive being
transition appealed me & I wandered thusly

or femur gaze a lamp above my hair does shine
would that its treble named me

would that its field a pair ensure

apparitional motion —

To repeat a word so much infests a coil or troll
a mete or fender
a groat or inner fey
a flick or tremble
hone east tea

where I touched yr shoulder spoke into the bone

A ship rose there
We steered by it

Faient pleasure named us

ø “beautiful”

Inside yr arm synecdoche

“were” heard as “wear”

We were alone there almost speaking

one syllable did inure or disobey

addendum data clarity


A scent of —
let you decide if absence’ reconnaissance
Again I must say “tentative”ø

There is has been a lure

Can I say this too or is it added slowly
a confection

abeyant synonym agreement hologr

meu lar meu lar

Event establish
mediodia mi amor

— protect us

Let others shift their weapons sleeping
(an English sentenc

Fain would ever we inure

ø “beautiful”

“Gust” appears in Erin Mouré’s A Frame of the Book, published by Anansi in 1999. Of all of her poems, it sticks with me most persistently. There is something very intimate about the poem, and it’s easy to get lost in its images, the knees beneath the billowing tablecloth, the place “where I touched yr shoulder.” But “Gust” is also filled with hesitation. It uses footnotes to toggle back and forth between the options “tentative” and “beautiful,” and the word “or” appears fourteen times, which is very striking, given that “Gust” is so short. There is a gentle playfulness to this hesitancy, so that the poem self-consciously comments on its own use of repetition, teasing itself about its translingual punning and the intimacy of its own descriptions. What I especially like about “Gust” is that its self-consciousness is not the coy hauteur of a knowing wink, but the bashful self-deprecation of a hesitant lover.

“Gust” begins by leading its reader through a series of images: a kind of picnic or an outdoor meal, a tablecloth billowing in the wind, clouds above (“a smooth haze westerly scudded”), and knees below, glimpsed at through or past the tablecloth. We look closely at the stitching on the tablecloth; we roll over onto the tablecloth. The poem seems to trace a memory of a summer encounter, its sharpest images, its most vivid sensations: the “sheen” of lips, the “gaze” at the “femur” of the other guest. But soon the “femur gaze” veers away from this summery memory, and into another point in time and space, when there is a “lamp above my hair,” and we are indoors, having “wandered thusly” away.

The rest of the poem offers commentary on the “apparitional motion” of that encounter, or perhaps more accurately on the “apparitional” memory of it. The poem continues to describe touches and sensations, but the punning between languages increases. Mouré often uses repetition to create relationships between different languages, or fragments of languages, as in the “faient” / “fain” pairing. I’m never sure exactly how she intends these repetitions – if is supposed to follow the grammatical rules of French, then “faient” would mean something like “making.” But the ending that Mouré uses, “-aient,” indicates that a few people were “making,” and that they were doing so on a somewhat continuous basis. Something else to notice about “faient” is the fact that “fain” repeats its sounds almost exactly, which creates a similar meaning for the words in the context of the poem, so that they both mean something like “gladly.” Part of the poem’s interest in “apparitional motion” is dedicated to this motion between languages, the motion between fragments of words and fragments of thought, where meaning is produced not so much by the fragments themselves, but through the relationships that we are able to draw between them.

Unfortunately, in my typing “Gust” hasn’t been rendered quite as nicely as it is in A Frame of the Book in the book because Mouré uses a superscript “ø” instead of little numbers to direct the reader to the footnotes at the bottom of the page. But the format of the blog is nice for reading “Gust” because it forces the reader of the poem to read in a more physically active manner, scrolling up and down to move between the footnote and the rest of the text, making physical the poem’s hesitation between “tentative” and “beautiful.” In a poem that is so much about the movement between words and memories, and how that movement draws out meaning, it’s nice to have to read in a more physically involved way, to use hands and fingers to work between the different verbal options that Mouré presents, to work between “tentative” and “beautiful.”

Sarah Dowling’s poetry has appeared in The Capilano Review, Cue, Descant, EOAGH, How2, and West Coast Line, and is forthcoming in Dusie and the ixnay reader. She lives in Philadelphia, and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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