EILEEN TABIOS Engages
THE BODY DOUBLE: a long poem by Jared Harel
(Brooklyn Arts Press, Brooklyn, 2012)
The Body Double. This self-described (pun intended) “long poem” by Jared Harel is interesting—it gets curiouser and curiouser as whats-her-face observes. It’s interesting because there’s an implication that the narrator is observing himself-as-other. It gets curiouser and curiouser because I, as reader, end up observing someone observing himself.
Which is to say, the process is tainted. The narrator may have been observing himself-as-other but some switch(es) occur(s), I sense, because the narrator realizes he’s also (inevitably?) being observed by a reader.
There are these details that one feels the narrator can only know by having been there in person—where the “you” is also the “I”:
…how you passed out in the prom parking lot,
tuxedo stained and stinking of beer…
Come clean about that time in the food court
when you got caught staring at Sara Parker’s breasts…
But there’s also this—showcasing how the gaze affects what’s being observed:
Since true emotions are inarticulate
and a tear is sincere only
by definition, I shut down
to find out the story, get the faces
by factoring out. My girlfriend
hates this: one-word answers,
the incessant silence, my double
all snowy like a broken TV.
She wonders what he’s thinking,
what I think of her outfit.
She turns to the mirror when he fails
to respond. Then one night
after screwing, she screams
I’m leaving! and straightens herself,
searching for her bra. By the time
she’s down the block, I see
she means it. He sees she means it
but can’t see what she means.
What do I mean by citing the above as an example of the gaze affecting what’s being observed? Not sure. But I think it has to do with how the narrator announces a decision to “get the facts” and then does so by not offering a play between himself and his other (as occurs in other parts of the long poem). Instead, he has to introduce another character—another device—this “she [who] means it.” And that “He sees she means it / but can’t see what she means.”
Have you ever written a review pronouncing this and that and then, after some period of time—a day, a meal break, et al—returned to read the review and not know what the heck you were talking about when you were writing that review? She posits this review may be one example.
So let me at least share something I’m less hesitant about saying—to wit, this poem is witty and I appreciate the wit. It begins wittily, for instance, as follows—
Born in Long Beach, the offspring of immigrants,
my first memory is moving away…
Born in Long Beach to a teacher and mechanic,
my mother swears everything
brings out my eyes…
—so that, from the beginning, this “I” was already splitting to incorporate an Other. And, from “2”, that their identity—individually or dually or metaphorically-multiplely—can be constructed, guided, or influenced by anything (coz that’s what “everything” here also means).
Well. As the poem proclaims, no wonder “[a]n existential crisis is bliss / compared to this.” I agree (I think). But this, as well, is a poem and its mysteries make it even more effective. On THE BODY DOUBLE, I can only share what someone once told me is the best compliment one can say about a poem: I don’t understand it, but I love it.
(Not really sure I comprehend what she just wrote, but: Whatever.)
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. An exception is made for the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA as that was co-written with another author, j/j hastain--and it is reviewed by T.C. Marshall in this GR #20 issue. She is also pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books. Her 2013 book, THE AWAKENING was reviewed by Tom Beckett at L'Amour Fou; by Amazon Hall of Famer Reviewer Grady Harp on Amazon and elsewhere; by Joey Madia at Literary Aficionado; by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field; by Zvi Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene and by jim mccrary and his cat Iris at Babaylan Poetics. Her 2007 book, SILENCES: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LOSS, was also recently reviewed by Nicholas T. Spatafora in Litter Magazine.