The ruins of a modern city gets a harsh but humanistic treatment in Roberson’s City Eclogue. As per the title, the shepherds gather and discuss what has befallen their flock–in this case the various citizens of NYC speaking on the destruction surrounding the city that they care for and in return cares for the shepherds. Strangely, many of the conversations feel solitary, as if the speaker is speaking to absence or speaking to everyone at once, which is to say we have some great isolated speech that echoes on the page (perhaps mimicking the isolation and desolation the speaker is in). Roberson’s free jazz movements of repeated staccato phrases that spiral into each other also enhances this droning effect.
The initial poem, Stand-In Invocation, is a fractured sonnet that speaks to how the citizens of the city now treat each other (A New York scoping out instead of eye/contact.) that ends in total disruption of ould’ves (could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, the familiar cries of hindsight) that is restiched with a footnote (She knows the form, her tongue’s just sharp and short of.) indicating the speaker has a sense of history and education but the immediacy of the breakdown in human relations in the city hurries the speaker past formal constraints.
This breakdown is not without a sense of hope and renewal that even from these cracked pieces of language and isolation, a new language can emerge to reestablish that essential communication necessary in urban living.]
- Stand-In Invocation
One of your clairvoyances who could’ve
seen her way to speak stared clearance through.
A New York scoping out instead of eye
contact. No voice of vision, no called muse —
one of your sightings that would be a dream
if it cared, if it loved you more, kept you
awake asleep and fucked you with your eyes
rested in the open beyond what’s seen.
No. One more of the feeling un-invoked
spoken out of these days’ put you through
proofs before granting you speech testifies
she is not the mouth of anything you wrote
these days ould’ve
She knows the form, her tongue’s just sharp and short of.