cover image Churches


Kevin Prufer. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (90p) ISBN 978-1935536437

Prufer (In a Beautiful Country) suffuses a landscape of strange, near-apocalyptic Americana with off-kilter religiosity and consciousness of mortality, featuring statesmen, children, lovers, a dying father, and the scepter-like presence of a young daughter. "Then the sun came up and all around there was nothing but garbage," Prufer writes. "In the flu-infected city/ the schoolchildren sleep/ while overhead, the lead-inflected/ sky begins to weep." Strangeness abounds, where surgeons leave instruments inside patients' bodies, birds of prey feed on fishermen, and childhood experience morphs into surreal memory. "There ought to be a word/ that suggests/ how we're balanced at the very tip of history/ and behind us/ everything speeds irretrievably away," he says, and it's this sense of ever-revised and ever-so-distorted historicity that gives these poems the tenor of a fable or story passed down generations: "In those days, you could leave your child at the city's edge for the wolves... Here are your pills... three little bugs in a paper cup." Through the backward glancing, Prufer uncannily circles to the present, letting it recede to make way for an alarming future: "All night long/ I watched the tracers fall... so I could see/ the Tetons' row of jagged teeth,/ the Great Lakes winking/ like mirror shards/ or fields of Kansas wheat,/ lustrous in the magnesium glare." (Apr.)