“Personal” by Michael Bazzett
Michael Bazzett has new poems forthcoming in Ploughshares, Redivider, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Salt Hill, Literary Imagination and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of The Imaginary City, recently published in the OW! Arts Chapbook Series, and They: A Field Guide, forthcoming from Barge Press in early 2013. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
The Maori traditionally apply tattoos with chisels, a painful, elaborate, and scarring process marking those within the tribe as members of distinction and accomplishment. Though branded like one, the speaker is not Maori, and is instead a self-described “white guy” who still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He’s pretty cheeky, too, what with that pun on “golden calf” and the crack about Nietzsche’s funeral. He even insists the commandments be a “mutual/ exchange.” His flippant tone, though, is a way to take a light hand with strong emotion. And therein lies the genius of this poem: its speaker wants to be both loved as an equal and surrender wholly that love. As an equal, he’ll maintain a “resonant silence” even as he seeks to lose himself within it.
This poem’s design needed to reflect all its references, and what better way to do that than to make another? Maori tattoos, philosophers, old testament images turned on their heads and re-presented in a contemporary form not usually associated with poetry… this speaker wouldn’t be content with a personal ad that blended into a solid column of type. It needed to be illuminated. After all, that’s what we seek when we venture into scripture, philosophy or love.