The Lunatic's Left-Hand Man by Eliot Khalil Wilson
January 1, 2019 // $8 // Recited by the author
Comments by 2017 Contest Judge, Simeon Berry:
The Lunatic’s Left-Hand Man is a manic, orgiastic act of democratic imagination, unleashing a torrent of American destinies that would curdle the milk in Walt Whitman’s breakfast cereal. Alternating dream-like encounters with celebrity sin-eaters and delirious litanies of all the ways the speaker will transmogrify into someone better, Eliot Khalil Wilson manages to navigate the toxic rapids of our culture like a madman in a kitchen sink. These poems are a cyclone of avowals and disavowals, oscillating between the anodyne normalcy of assorted winter squash and the leafy siege engine of “a wind-activated giant pornographic boxwood topiary.”
Too often, poetry is a poverty economy, miserly parceling out images with an air of sanctimonious benevolence, but these poems explode like a game of 52-pick-up, their sweat smelling like drug money, fueled by black-market Ukrainian steroids and specious Russian stimulants, weeping like a fountain when the breadsticks arrive.
There’s enough kinetic energy here to shake a naval destroyer to pieces, and Wilson grabs any weapon at hand, sweating alchemical grease that turns (in one memorable sequence) “piccolos to pork swords, pencils to pikestaffs, pizzles to plowshares….”
Yet these poems also vibrate at lower seismic frequencies, discovering hidden storage container corridors “littered with deer hunting magazines and Playboys” and examining the hunting habits of those who bury dead angels under the azaleas, hang them up in carports, or lock them in the deep freezer in the basement with the bass filets.
Inside the confetti weather of empty promises we all make to ourselves, Wilson can discern the truly dangerous microbes, such as the pathology of Midwestern stoicism that makes one “white, really white, all the way white… bitter and pale like a flurry of aspirin… emot[ing] like a frozen stump.”
Like a Siberian shaman, Wilson has been dismembered into metaphysical sinews and put back together by the same shadowy animals from the self that took him apart in the first place, and we are lucky enough to bear witness to his dazzling reconstitution.