How To Hide an Elephant
by Emily Pettit
All over town footprints are flying. When walking
on tiptoes we ignite suspicious minds. Hovering,
hanging out nowhere near the ground.
I’m on my way to the end of the world again.
Thirteen red barns in a row. A story on the news.
A mouse has died in the wall. I have a box
full of porcupine quills. I have a box full of
tiny tools. A box full of bees. Becoming information
is not necessarily a choice. A chance meeting
is not necessarily enough to change things.
If your reflection went missing what would you do?
Feel like a spider who has forgotten how to weave
a web. Try to remember where you last leaned,
where you last left no trace. Here is a tiny elephant.
Put it in your pocket and it can be the elephant in the room
that no one ever talks about.
How to read Emily Pettit. There is no easy explanation. Or rather, there is no correct way to read Emily Pettit. Just do it. Read Emily Pettit. If that’s not enough instruction, Emily tells you how in her aptly titled book How (published by Octopus Books), a collection of poems with titles like “How to Stop Laughing When You Laugh at Inappropriate Times” or “How to Carefully Consider Space Travel.” If you are like me, then this is the instruction manual you have long sought in your adult life. The time has come to leave those Nintendo manuals in a Rubbermaid bin tucked away in your parents’ basement. You won’t need them anymore.
What we learn from How might be what we would learn about ourselves if we were to dive into a pool of paint wearing a football uniform. You simply have to try it to find out. Emily’s poems are like following steps to becoming telepathic. There is no right answer, but if an offered solution causes people to say, “I don’t believe you” then Emily’s How is one giant retort: “Then I guess I’m unbelievable.” Can we really find out how to find a robber by reading “How to Find a Robber”? It’s as if these poems mask a greater sense of instruction, how to mislead a world that might be after you, creep up on you, toss you a doozy. Think of the movie Commando, when Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks into the weapons depot and arms himself with a ton of firepower. Then think “what was a weapons depot doing in downtown LA? In a mall, no less?” We shouldn’t think of the sense, but of the urgency. Arnold needed a weapon’s depot, and LA provided. This is How. This is Emily covering all her bases, throwing in lines like When it comes to performing some of the most difficult and laborious operations of abstract thought, I fail when instructing us how to find robbers. This is handy information. Take for instance these sagacious lines from “How to Hide a Fire”:
The curtain is blowing though
the window is closed. People are
doing magic and blushing. It’s a bad day
for chickens. Disco is dead.
And this is why one shouldn’t talk shit.
Her knowledge and know-how isn’t limited to her own work. Emily also does double-time as an editor for Factory Hollow Press, runs the online poetry zine Notnostrums, and helps at her brother Guy’s amazing book mecca, Flying Object, in Hadley, Massachusetts. Given her exposure to so much poetry, and her love of sharing it, I don’t think I’ve ever come within handshaking distance of Emily without receiving a new chapbook. Her enthusiasm for new poetry (and by new I also mean young) is not unlike many a music blogger’s enthusiasm to post new songs on a daily basis. She carries it with swagger and keeps her tastes refined. Hers is not “A Flower in Springtime” type of poetry. Enter her world and you’ll soon know what I mean.
Art: Nathaniel Whitcomb
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Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2011