Monday, July 11, 2016



ORIGINAL SIN by Michael Daley 
(Pleasure Boat Studio, Los Angeles, 2000)

Mr. Daley begins his book with a quote“But weep just once, Mister Memory, and I’ll have your tongue.” The quote is by Thomas McGrath. McGrath also wrote: “Comes now one who has been conquered / By all he sees. And asks what—would have what— /Poor fool, frail, this man, mistake, my hero?” There’s a moment in the poem “Aria” where Mr. Daley writes: “As a witness in the high-pitched opera of the vaulted grove, I became a man who kept white feathers secret all day.” Opera is like that. When the falsetto reaches its highest octave it could be compared to the eagle mentioned in “Aria”. In the movies you would see a comparison between the eagle and that of a screeching tire of a car careening around a turn. Elsewhere in the poem he writes: “a wriggling rat dangled from a tine of copper talon, and in three slow strokes, climbs from the highway to a lighted treetop.” One can see the eagle with his catch fighting for his life. The highway below, captured by the flat eyeball seeing everything. Fine poem.

A poem entitled “The Gatekeeper” tells the story of a passenger overhearing a conversation of two people on an Amtrak train traveling through Oregon. I had almost the same experience on a bus through the Arkansas night. The poet dreams of being the conductor; not unlike Jack Kerouac who dreamed of Neal Cassidy’s experiences. Mr. Daley writes: “Now night commands/ these hills to dim/ where no porch light shines.” Describing the lonely but jubilant night, he sets up the next few lines painting the allure of the night before introducing the other two passengers. Finally, the passengers: “Behind me, / a man and a woman talk/ across the aisle about pack-mules/ and llamas.” This is the brightest spot in the book.

“I admit I was the first to wake/ inside the long dormitory. I was read for moonlight. During Easter Midnight Mass in a lily’s shadow Father Cardillo strained on a ladder of Gregorian notes, his voice almost falsetto…” A dream sequence? The title is “Getting into Heaven.” The poem closes with: “When I heard earth whistle in space/ I ran down the tilted hall.” The late British film director Ken Russell would have appreciated this.

The poem “Joey Nee” is a brief movie; most prose poems are. Mr. Daley writes: “You and I walked/ with the thin Czech priest/ who couldn’t name the man/ from under whose wing/ he fled the concertina wire/ to damp forests, ending/ with the Russian question, / Cui Bono – for whose good?” This sounds like a classic seventies espionage film where it features actors you may not have heard of but you watch it anyway because it is in the time before the remote, before the internet. But the poem changes, I will not let the cat out of the hat but suffice to say it ends well for the reader.


Chris Mansel is a writer, filmmaker, epileptic, musician, photographer and a permanent outsider for some reason. Along with Jake Berry, he formed the band Impermanence who have released one album, Arito. He releases music under the name dilation Impromptu who have released four albums and have just released a new Cd Indentions On The North Face of Everest. His writing has been published in the Experioddi(cyber)cist, Apocryphal Text, and the Atlantic Press among others. He has made over 260 short films for other artists as well as his own work.

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