Poetry / Perry Janes
:: I have lived my entire life inside the movies, ::
—after Diane Seuss
their orchestras hiding around every corner. Where boom mics lurk between building girders, sidewalks uncouple from gravity, Cosmo and coffee cups clutter the skyline. Yes. I have lived leaping from one moving vehicle to another. Often in peril. Often unable to free scarf from steering wheel even at cliff edge, ripping clear to jump the gap from Jeep to jet, jet to yacht, from yacht to any stable shore. I have lived here learning, each day, to strike my most heroic pose. To love linearity! There was a road I followed. From gray sidewalks, tinted SUVs chasing me down highway clovers, to a countryside of quiet settlers. Finally: a silo I could hide inside when the storm came looking for me. Storm of rain, sand, men, yes, I have lived where every turn is a wrong turn and only bad choices take me where I need to go. Where I am strong but never too strong, barely enough to best a one-armed shooter, to grip the slick sides of the subway as it hurtles past. Where, some nights, the thing I love is a ghost, pixelated fingers brushing through my hair. Where, some days, the sun rises twice. Some days, if you squint, you can see, in the distance, that cut-out where one lost extra ran straight through the horizon— theirs is a shape I yearn toward. No acetate sunsets catching flame. No cellos playing from the cemetery, cymbals clashing me awake. You should know: there are others, like me, who have slipped the edges of our frame. Slipped to where, I’ve seen, another world waits. Though the people there sit, watchful, in the dark. Though it is dark there and this world is the light they see by.
:: Creation Myth ::
—beginning with line by Joy Harjo
there’s no more imagination we’re in it now reader the storm’s light rising as a boy in his father’s too-large leather apron bends above the sheeted workbench steel rod raised up through the roof for lightning to enliven his invention how clouds cauldron and spark the edges fade the flash resolves and now we see it clearly little bones little chin not yet scarred by acne a child I guess except for the flesh-mitten fingers stitched together except for the collage of random raccoon and possum hide patchworking its back there is of course the moment of inspection the boy pinches the child that isn’t a child flesh that isn’t flesh can’t be flesh those wire-like hairs already sprouting between legs that raise against his touch and if I stand here with them if I watch from the corners of the room corners the light doesn’t reach I’m in this for keeps after the boy tucks his shirt he steps into the rain left alone the child-thing rises to test its newfound feet rubs cocoa butter between its joints to hide the smell of musk wet with what it knows marks the body as belonging watch the light shifts factory lamps dimming as a sun dazzles up and reader you should know there are no bystanders here outside the boy snaps his half-split thumbnail against a matchbook’s flint I pull my ragged tee on top my lotioned chest when I join him the storm washes smoke from my hair
From the writer
:: Account ::
These poems explore an uneasy relationship between autobiography and performance. I currently work as a screenwriter in Hollywood, where the life of a writer requires I package, pitch, and sell my projects to producers, executives, and consumers. With time, I’ve become keenly aware (and deeply suspicious) of the mythologies I’ve learned to build. I notice how skilled I’ve become at positioning myself in a certain light, in manipulating the details of the story toward heroism, sacrifice, bold declarations of fact.
Noticing these tendencies has led to an obsession with assemblage. In the midst of crafting the poem, I’m confronted by the impulse to step back; to interrogate the speaker; to look closely at those moments where rupture or artifice appears. Who do I become when I shed my performance of goodness, rightness, certainty? When I examine the flaws in my own constructions? How did I learn to position the proverbial camera? What are the moral implications of such craftsmanship?
Despite these questions, I find I’m unable to abandon allusion, mythology, and archetype. These structures aren’t only familiar—they’re often playful. They allow me to discharge difficult subjects with wonderment. When writing about childhood in particular, they restore a fundamental element of childlike imagination into experiences I might otherwise recoil from. Elements of fantasy, fable, or (more broadly speaking) entertainment enable the poem to hold paradox and contradiction. What does it mean to confront trauma and nostalgia in the same breath? Shame and wistfulness? Violence and tenderness?
Somewhere in this tension, these poems emerge.
Perry Janes is a writer and filmmaker from Metro Detroit, Michigan. A Pushcart Prize and Hopwood Award recipient, his work has appeared in POETRY, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Zyzzyva, Subtropics, The North American Review, West Branch, The Adroit Journal, and others. He holds a BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. A recipient of the AMPAS Student Academy Award, he currently lives in Los Angeles, where he works as a screenwriter.