In his new book, The Underwater Typewriter, published by Pelekinesis Press, poet Marc Zegans offers an extraordinary collection of poems that probes the deeper nuances of love, desire and creativity, and the crushing weight of despair, emotional peril, legacy and mortality. Displaying impressive formal technique, Zegans explores the often harrowing depths of the human psyche with wit and intelligence.
Always a sucker for a romantic encounter, however riddled with ambivalence, I found myself attracted to the delicate subtlety of some of the collection’s smaller pieces. They reveal a complex inner world from which Zegans draws inspiration, rendering multi-faceted portraits of even the most seemingly simple descriptions of fruit, moments between lovers and toenail polish. Here are some of my favorites:
Fall River Girl
In white wintered light she rose,
drawing swift from drowsy sheets
before sun broke the silver scrim
stretched sky to snow, revealing
and masking Cambridge Common
and she, bringing muted sterling
glow to cello curve of back at edge
obscuring day’s detail, leaving only
rolling contour for my weary rods
At open door, on beveled threshold
her foot found rise, and she, lover
of heels and wearing none, pressed
toes to wood, lifting arch, pivoting
pulling me by line of sight up from sand
of night to her flowing edge, where we held
Here, Zegans mines the finest of details of a moment of beauty and desire, tendrils of association reaching into music, season, nostalgia for this place at this time of day. Delicate and exquisite, I return to it again and again for the catch in my throat it produces.
She’d come with toes painted purpler than plums
Darker than eggplant, and deep in the blues
I could sense the red current underneath
A tidal flow of electricity
Most women’s painted toes shout, “Look at me!
See how red I am! See how gold! How pink!
how pearlescently lustrous I can be!”
As if every part must be a sign-post
A ballyhoo for that which isn’t there
She’d come quieter, drawing my hand
This poem turns on the last two lines, which take the vivid descriptions of the first two stanzas and infuse them with an unexpected heat. I am surprised at the depth of feeling Zegans achieves with this simple shift of focus.
you enter my life in small moments
as seeds infiltrate the ground, encased
waiting to be opened by water
strangely, they find home in me
rooting, spreading, opening inside
until I feel them poke at my eyes
express themselves lively through my skin
tickle my nostrils and part my lips
now abuzz with words meant only for you.
Oh the romance, the delicious invocation of budding, new love. And then I step back, read it again, and remember just how complete and visceral is love’s overhaul of the body, the mind, the spirit, so beautifully captured in this rich imagery.
They’re doing well these apples of the sun
riding in cars, resting in crispers, walk-in
freezers, and on counters, firm skinned, waiting
honey, and the cold slice that comes before.
They don’t fear the blade, these sun hard apples.
They know a parting will end their journey
in the round, juiced, skinned, stemmed fibrous form
given them by tree, water, dirt and light.
They know the time of becoming smaller
cannot be forestalled, and they do not care.
They will be in pieces, sweetened and bit
and mashed and digested, a memory
barely, in conscious mind, but deep in cell
these fine apples that will soon cease to be.
And their skins are bright, colors dancing
inviting the bite that will bring union
so complete it does not raise a whisper.
I love the metaphorical power of this poem to summon up the completeness of the life cycle. Somehow the specter of imminent death feels much less threatening when worn by bright, red apples. Rather, their quiet acquiescence allows me in to appreciate this eventuality without fear, with joy even.
of a door
you bit your lower lip, letting your hand fall
from the belt of your robe, arm extending
sweeping with it proscenium fronting
curtain, as you stood in the stained wood frame
of a door built generations before
one of many facing maids’ corridor
showing shadows as you released your lip
drawing me cross threshold onto your bed
your buckthorn berry, spying dress, slipping
from the foot, sounding the roughness of silk
piling, a lost sheath; the cover story
forgotten amidst the flesh, I suspect.
would that night be less valuable to me
less direct, if we had met under cover?
This poem is a celebration of beauty to be found in unabashed vulnerability, the sheer erotic power of directness, the timeless appeal of the slow striptease, the beckoning of a lover ever more real and significant than any furtive coupling.
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The Underwater Typewriter is a bountiful collection of poems encompassing many facets of the inner life of Marc Zegans. As a whole, they represent a rich cataloging of years of challenge, inspiration, struggle, passion, introspection and persistence. I dare you to delve into these pages and not find some, perhaps many moments of resonance with the vast array of human experience crafted there.
Deborah Oster Pannell is a freelance writer living and working in New York City. In addition to her own creative work, she collaborates with other writers, artists, and entrepreneurs, helping them develop and promote their work via her company, Project Mavens.