“Confessional” by Devin Becker
Devin Becker is the Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Idaho. His poems have been published in Cutbank, The Pinch, Faultline, and other fine journals. His article on the digital archiving practices of writers, co-written with Collier Nogues, is forthcoming from American Archivist.
Late nights are for wrestling with fear, be it consciously or otherwise. Devin Becker’s poem has all the likely suspects: preachers of fire and brimstone, the TV, a god that does and does not exist, water that gives and takes life. The speaker knows he “is not all right,” he “do[es] ill/ and no one notices,” but he also understands how much he doesn’t know. (How well could anyone really understand a dream state full of “metaphors of metaphors”?) Perhaps that’s the point: there is no knowing. And does it even matter, when the god we feel we’ve made up saves us yet again? It matters to the speaker, who by the poem’s end, is in God’s boat.
The indented lines plus the very long middle line create a visual back and forth effect more pronounced than when text is entirely flush left. Centering and kerning open the title and poet’s name reinforce this effect. It’s all with an eye toward the physical space of the confessional, with its curtains that slide open and closed around each act. Optima occupies the tiny gray area between seraphed and unseraphed typefaces, an appropriate choice for a poem about a space that both is and is not a true confessional.