Larkin Higgins' poems have a way of getting under my skin, and this without any anti-intellectualism. Her poetic mind moves through sensation and hyper-awareness into language that is precise and sliding at the same time. She goes at her work with a confidence that stakes itself against authority as if it should. This works itself out in opposition to a space and superficial ethos around her, as in "The Architect's Ruminations," when she writes—"strategic position sitting in the smallest room." I cannot help but think that "cover the tongue & groove no wiggle room," suggests protest speech, protest against those who would rather the poem was silent or at least, brief. And so, "brevity brightens the picture." In "Association" Higgins' poetic mind shifts between sensory memory and its loss, bringing the reader along with it and foregrounding the action in a sinuous re-reading of words standing in for those words. The use of "yet separable" in the ghazal, "Inclination," becomes an overwhelming repetition, and as in the lives of saints, it becomes the anguish of one who is a sign and so separate. The precision in the fourth brief part of the last sequence, "Precision," is embodied in her last three lines—"marble, tire/ Mars/ three all round." We cannot help but be affected by Higgins' commitment to her work if we let it, as in the last phrase of "Gesture" which as closure is a killer—"Fleshy perimeter, telltale signs, skin of sins." [BM]
THE ARCHITECT'S RUMINATIONS
1237 18th Street
18035 Castle Heights Drive
3520 Military Avenue
ASSOCIATIONSurrounded by people losing their memory memory. A woman dressed in turquoise trousers turquoise blouse carrying a turquoise umbrella. There is the man who remembers the person but not the place of the meeting. The woman who remembers the name of the person the first name wrong last name right but not the association association. The remembering of the association and not the name name the first letter of the name but not the occupation. The color of the building she met him in front of but not the address. The ficus tree by the brick steps but not the occupant. Remember him she says asks you talked to him at the symposium in Pasadena [but I know I spoke to him in Venice]. She insists and I grow silent silently worn she repeats insists repeats yes yes at the symposium but I see clearly the room where I she spoke to him. I am standing there here right now. Not in Pasadena. Insistence spinning is persuasive even as facts don't match or who who's memory is insistent isn't.
Wonder if words are required. Required words, I wonder. All these. Some seem to need words, more words. Will a gesture suffice? Curved finger or straight. Curved c of curved. The hand, the raised hand, delicate or not. The stop gesture of stop. Upright stop, flat stop, you-can-read-my-presented palm stop or go, go with a point, a pointed-fingernail-extension emphatic go. Or come, closer, reader of palm lines. The lifeline curves to the palm's edge, page's edge, read. The most-used-worn-smooth palm of hand. Fleshy perimeter, telltale signs, skin of sins.
[a ghazal, or leaning towards]
Parallel one becomes due to changeable action—yet separable
foliated like pages a layer lying over another
Cordyceps—a Chinese herb, improves memory what
could be proven otherwise. A decision
Transcendence, the inclination—the aging monk
the body, gutted and cleaned. Sap (harvested like maple syrup)
his remains lacquer layered painted dried proved
See "Cabeza De San Pablo" (Queretaro) oil upon canvas
head placed on brass platter. Decapitated sorrow.
Is clarity all in the head?
by padlocked entrance gate.
And Saint Vincente stands a full body
above his head. Wings jut from his embroidered robes
the lark in living:
There is nothing new here
Three hands raise
What rock represents
The language of mathematics and the language of the body are longtime fascinations. Reading Where Mathematics Comes From by Lakoff and Núñez ignited further explorations, such as the 3-line poems. And "Gesture." And more. The combined experiences of practicing the traditional art of Vietnamese lacquer painting and viewing oil paintings in a Mexican museum became the catalyst for "Inclination."