In Lia Purpura’s On Looking, a collection of essays by a talented lyricist, we find such dense music as “the first hard crack against quartz,” and such rich story as:
Here, gathered on the porch with us, you’re staying with that gash of a moment, you’re holding, somewhere, a starkness few will let a moment turn to.
You’re turning the moment in your hands, you’re offering it so it breaks in the light and falls in shining disks and you harvest the disks…you fill your pockets and jingle the pockets.
Purpura is coming to the APSU campus to give a prose reading, though of course such prose from a writer also published as a poet, begs a question of the divide, though that question of where poetry begins and prose ends no longer interests me.
What does interest me are the five chests of drowned men she describes in “Autopsy Report,” “bound with ropes and diesel-slicked” because they were below deck sleeping when a freighter hit their tug. Interesting because it is rare we see inside our bodies, let alone another’s. Remarkably closed, these thin-skinned vessels. “Have I thought of the body as sanctuary?” Purpura asks herself, noting the strange intimacy of the captain’s red long johns, a thumb-knuckle-sized hole in some crewman’s sock. We live and dress and sleep and strip, then five of us who were sailors get laid out on a table for a stranger’s eyes to fondle.
Should we make ourselves uncomfortable? With grief or sorrow. With violence? Is there a value to asking questions we may not want the answers to? To reading such vivid descriptions of the material of our existence as if displayed on a Thanksgiving table, “a cornucopia of dripping fruits hoisted to the hanging scale—there was the spine.”
I’m presenting this post as Fogged Clarity Reader Interview 1. The question, and you may answer in the comments if it sparks for you—is: What have you seen that few have seen?