cover image Dissolve


Sherwin Bitsui. Copper Canyon, $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-545-5

Bitsui (Flood Song) traverses his native Southwest in a third collection that pulls from Diné (Navajo) tradition and exhibits a geologic sense of scale, wherein the human dissolves into landscape and landscapes morph and pixelate in turn. He opens with “Caravan,” a single urbanized poem about pulling an alcoholic brother out of a bar and back to the reservation: “The city’s neon embers/ stripe the asphalt’s blank page/ where this story pens itself nightly.” But it’s merely the stage setter for the eponymous remainder of the book: a long, interlocking series of brief, evocative, shardlike lyrics that defy narrative order, optical clarity, or object-oriented stasis. Here, children are “suckled by shadows” and “hand-stitch starless skies/ to their temporary faces,” “a noose glimmers above the orphaning field,” and “Wave patterns shade the eyes of ants/ from which we continue to watch:/ moons, suns, nights,/ pulled/ one pill at a time.” The formal integrity of Bitsui’s lines enables seamless transitions from the momentary to the timeless, from each disorienting and dazzling idea to the next: “the flattened field is chandeliered/ by desert animal constellations.” Bitsui’s exhilarating poetics lay in the blur of time, the slow and sure slide from ghostlike ideas into haunted-looking things, in constant erasure and redrawing: “No language but its rind/ crackling in the past tense.” (Oct.)