Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bonesteel. Then Ander Monson.

In preparation for my annual rendezvous with Ander Monson’s devastating work on the upper Midwest, the stark narratives investigating the smell of static that penetrates all winter outerwear, the line of communication labeled, Other Electriticites,

I have been gathering into myself the works of Richard Hugo and Mike Balisle. You may reply, “Oh, Richard Hugo, yeah, we know Richard Hugo- but, who’s that Mike Balisle?”

Well, curious reader, let me tell you, Mike Balisle penned a collection in 1977, entitled Bonesteel. It is self-published, held together by staples and yellowed by years. I found it in a box at the Renaissance Bookshop in downtown Milwaukee. The fiction at Renaissance is, for the most part, well picked over by Marquette bibliophiles, but the other sections, especially the children’s, are overflowing with yet to be discovered phenomena. So, anyway, I have been carrying this slight volume- Bonesteel- around for about two weeks, taking out and reciting any of the hundreds of amazing prose to whomever happens to be standing the closest- most often boyfriend type person. I have looked online and found nothing on the author or the collection.

"With Unknown Fever"
at that time the holy men of the upper Midwest would strip naked under the
northern lights and fight like angry blacksmiths until caving in gloriously

I imagine Mike Balisle as some silent small-town Midwestern boy, eating lunch at eleven and dinner at five like clockwork, plowing driveways or working construction, this book a brief foray into creativity. He was probably just some fashion vagabond, tramping around the country on trains or flatbed trucks, only to return to place of birth and ultimately become the aforementioned small-town personality. Or maybe he’s in some D.C. think tank or perhaps he lives down the street from me, muttering daily about the price of gasoline.

"The White Axes of Winter"
years inside a blizzard we awaken
to the questioning of the fact
that last night pale children were stalked
by images of ice

this morning it is seen
the white axes of winter whirled until all
oaths and prayers were split from our faces

there we fell
the cold hills
drifting our shoulders

Dear Mike Balisle,

You’re making it difficult for me to move beyond:

I will forget my sadness
and run with lengthening legs
to the tavern in junction city
where anna in her wheelchair
presents me with a grain belt
“the soul lives on----don’t you know that yet?”

I mean, this kind of language compounded with the new Weakerthans album (Night Windows may be the most satisfying devastation track of the year), is prohibiting me from doing anything but obsessively consuming them exclusively.

In conclusion, Mike Balisle, I appreciate your work, and hope that somewhere along the line, someone, someone not on an obscure book blog in 2007, someone you knew in the thirty years between Bonesteel and now, was smart enough to tell you that in person.


Anonymous said...

he's my uncle!

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