A love poem is a love poem, is a love poem. But can the same thing be said about desire? Open Heart Sutra Surgery (NeoPoiesisPress, 2013) by Stephen Roxborough is an interesting exploration of questions like these. His “arc of our dance with desire,” explores desire from beginning to end—well, if desire had an end. It certainly doesn’t in this collection.
Roxborough personifies the id in order to show the reader that desire takes on many forms, and in doing so does not take on a linear timeline. It just is. “they say nothing lasts,” is an example of the expedition through the so-called “end” of desire, and it is one of my favorite poems in the collection.
everything falls apart
planets families marriages bodies cars
skyscrapers mountains molecules
atoms quarks myth & truth
except you dear desire
yet i keep falling apart for you
& coming back together & no one
knows what keeps us composed
perhaps it’s our apartness…”
Roxborough’s use of short lines and unpunctuated lists cause the reader to move quickly through the poem, leaving a feeling of breathlessness and a need to reread. Its false simplicity brings a sense of truth to the complicated feelings that arise from all types of desires, especially those that people can never really escape from.
Sometimes, though, Roxborough’s style sacrifices some of itself to capture the immediacy that the writer is going for. “Fuck Me,” loses all the intricacies that poems “they say nothing lasts,” explore. Instead, we get a grating repetition of the phrase “fuck me,” and the poem holds no higher meaning than sometimes you just really wanna get your dirt on. There is nothing inherently wrong with that message, but it just doesn’t seem to hold up with some of the other poems in the collection.
That is not to say that Roxborough cannot use repetition to the same level of some of the other poems in this collection. “perfect plummeting,” is an example of short lines and repetition that still create beautiful images and illicit the open heart response that this collection calls for.
“ o to fall in love with you
Fall spring summer winter in love
free fall in love
into you inside you through you inside me
falling falling deeper
with every breath
of your nonstop sky
deeper into the myth & truth of you
into the mindless
abyss of us”
The repetition here pulls the reader closer instead of pushing them away, and the closeness to this poem brings such impact to later stanzas:
“we come out the other side
Where everything us
While this collection can be hit or miss, it is still definitely worth a read. Open Heart Sutra Surgery is 100% human, whether it be the introspective or animalistic side of us, these poems explore what it means to want. A love poem is a love poem is a love poem, but desire is a whole other ball game. One that can simultaneously house grit and beauty, while still leaving room for weirdness and confusion.