cover image Century Swept Brutal

Century Swept Brutal

Zach Savich. Black Ocean (SPD, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-939568-05-2

In this series of nine sequences, Savich (The Firestorm) meditates on perception, thought, myth, and modern-day America through brief lyric bursts of compressed, highly imagistic lines. "I've tuned the piano so a certain chord/ is always nearly happening," Savich begins, and what follows is a parade of half-familiar scenes, objects, and interpersonal interactions where "The presence of this/ ingredient activates/ surrounding flavors." One gets the feeling that Savich's lyric "I" lives with one foot in a dream world, the other stuck amidst the repetitions and signs of our day: "Beauty being cause,/ not effect; not perceived,/ perceived with.// Century-swept, brutal, the new flags/ dry on their wires." Here, where "I keep/ my hand in/ my/ pocket because my/ finger is stuck/ in a tiny/ priceless vase," beauty and kitsch are never far apart, but often play off each other. "Costumed primarily in pollens and pinecones," Savich's poems move and disturb: "a blue I will describe only as white," he notes, "I feel like I'm at the end of my rope." But there is wit here, too: "one whose crotch protrudes its instrument from the faintest meringue I remember from childhood." "People on this island" Savich reminds us, "say what/ people on any island say." (Mar.)