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Myth and the Poetry of Creation: A Critique of Joseph Bastow’s “Leash”

2008 November 29

Distant, Impossible Nebulae

     Leash. A dog reacts to a beacon near Jupiter that directs souls into the afterlife. This is the poetry of the creation-myth, the longing to explain the life-death cycle in words. Imagine centuries from now a book being sold in almost every store called Dog Beacon. In some cases, Dog Beacon would be used to form liturgical rites of worship and prayer. You can hear believers singing in unison:

He’s synchronizing again

with some distant, impossible nebulae as a dog-beacon

for those who have just met their end

and can’t find the window to the Great Passing Through.

Not again, dog. I bark at it to stop. Not again.

This would be sung in a high Gregorian chant, and then silence: worshipers bow their heads to contemplate their own mortality. The sermon, of course, would follow: “I bark at it to stop. Not again. How do we respond to death? We bark. We deliver the Miloszian version of canine theology, and we bark at all of creation. . .”  They come in for answers, these believers, church-goers, and instead they find this poem. Leash.

     Leash, posted on this site by Joseph Bastow, is language that re-mythologizes our everyday world, and in the end, existence itself. The hot, almost unbearable heat of summer is something quite ordinary for all of us. The need for water. The barking dog. Why the incessant barking? The weight of a day like this showers this poem with a temporal heaviness that cries out for transcendence, and it delivers.

     What you have is a new way to experience the world, and for the world to give back experience. Now, a barking dog is more than a sound that annoys: It is the gyres of creation creaking together in the heat of summer, the sound that souls make as they separate from the flesh and begin to travel at the speed of light out past the known reaches of existence itself.

     When in doubt over the existential, I will read Leash. There are other ways to contemplate and remember a summer afternoon, but if forced to choose between a glass of water and this poem, I will take the trip to Jupiter every time.

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