I don’t love Yeezus as much as I love
Yeezus when I’m with you. And rappers
get lonely too. Zip-lining is not
a cure-all. Kim knows that
and knows how to backwards
straddle a bike like a real woman’s woman.
Anaïs Duplan is not a poet for the inflatable pool chair reader. At the beginning of her debut poetry collection Take This Stallion, the reader is flung into a 15-page poem entitled “On A Scale of 1-10, How ‘Loving’ Do You Feel?”, an emotional telescope that drifts over the death of a close friend, persistently turning to the counsel of one Kim Kardashian. The heady direction of this poem is gradually overcome by distraction and reflection and frustration, ultimately spinning out of control and imploding into itself. Even Kim cannot remove Anaïs from her thoughts, from the truth of things:
Your body is so hard now.
They put on too much of the balm.
You’ve never looked so womanly
as you do dead now, dead the next day, etc.
I say an emotional telescope, and not microscope, for one reason: you cannot touch this material. It does not present itself to you as something exoteric, or darling, in such a way that you may reveal yourself on a first date; no, this material is meant to be seen from a distance, a cosmic experience of confession and endless revelation:
Someone somewhere: It’s not death I’m afraid of. It’s the getting dead.
That’s the fun part, tho, I think. You only die once.
From 1992 to 2015, Duplan was a permanent resident alien in the United States. “To be an alien means to be in a permanent state of loss, but to be unsure of what you have lost,” she says. And this is how she chases the meanings: separated, distracted, but by route of certainty. Anaïs does not entirely understand herself, but she is fearless in the journey. In turn, the reader is brought beneath the rains of isolation and loneliness, torn from the umbrellas of pop culture and entertainment and escapism and willful ignorance.
I’m Andre 3000. I’m outie 3000. I’m out of my element. I’m out of
cigarettes. I quit four months ago, it was never serious but every time
I tried to quit you’d call with something to say and that one time I tried
to quit and David died.
Duplan introduces David’s death with an honest simplicity. This sudden stroke of disclosure is not hauled into sensations of poetic impression, but rather, it is relinquished as a gasp. Anaïs had not been waiting to say this, and perhaps she did not expect to; perhaps we, the readers, were not supposed to know. It was not our business, and yet:
I was mad because he was so good. He was better
than anyone else. I would’ve given him my heart
if I’d known his was going to stop.
What do I need it for.
Throughout the book, we accompany Duplan as she grapples with her own humanity. How to live? How to love, or to cope with death? How to die? Even the poems that were written before the death of her David now inevitably live under the shadow of loss; readers cannot see the poems without it. Duplan’s words have now been corralled into the realm of grief, and though Take This Stallion could be wholly interpreted as the musings of a mourning kind, the dimensions of the book continue to unfold.
And thus, the telescope tilts on, and Duplan does not lament life; she instead celebrates it in all aspects, including the most tragic. She is unafraid to bare it all for her readers, the aliens amongst her world of disorder and disruption. And when she hurts, she does so with subtlety, and we find ourselves asking “Do I hurt, too?” Through her, we know that we are allowed to.
My life is a ballad, it goes: O
ooooo! I can’t breathe
when you hold me so
cold. Get paid get paid
tomorrow. Wake up get
paid tomorrow. You deserve
everything you get.
You don’t know nothing and you never did, silly bill.
I don’t have a gun but maybe one day I will.
Duplan has shown you what it is to be barren, what it is to be alone yet connected, and when the end comes, it hurts. Yet we aren’t losing something when we finish the book; quite the opposite. What Duplan allows us to take away from her poetry is ineffable, but can be, in essence, described as a will to live despite the things that may come for us. Duplan has seen a dark world and the things that it holds. She has lost people, and she has struggled with her perceptions of herself. She can separate the futile actions from the ones that have purpose. She can turn her telescope to a brighter world.
She signs us off with the poem "The Flying Phalangers," named for the genus containing the sugar glider species.
You and I are filthy but it is
our filth. Look how quick the clouds
when you expect bad news. Here is
a telegram I have never received:
Please. Hold out hope. The best
is nowhere in sight.
Live, despite terror. Live, despite death.
Do not waste time trying to find
beauty in all things. Reserve your awe
for mammals in flight.
The unthinkable can happen, and will happen. But you must move beyond it.
JT LACHAUSSE is the founding editor of Matador Review and is an intern at The Adirondack Review. His literary work has been published in Praxis Magazine, Hair Trigger, Enizagam, and several other publications. Originally from Aurora Sparks, Texas, he currently lives in Chicago, where he attends Columbia College.