Image Credit: Gary Bendig
This week, I read The Geese Who Might Be Gods, a debut collection of poems by Benjamin Cutler. The poems in this collection are well-crafted, thoughtful pieces which combine the contemporary with the mythological in pursuit of finding meaning in a world where technology has become a god of its own.
In “My Brother and His Friend Pause from Their Work to Raise My Mower from the Dead,” the speaker refers to the titular mower as “a broken child, silent and small,” setting up the mower as an anthropomorphized being who needs a deeper, spiritual healing, not merely repairs.
The speaker goes on to say, “of these two mechanics—/shamans garbed in grease/and denim, already musky with day’s demands,” portraying the two mechanics as men of arcane power.
The best part of the piece is when the speaker says, “these officiants/spoke in a language of mostly silence and ritual,/reaching for tools/ made for heavier work,/opening its still chest to read the dark bones—/a mystery of anointments with oil-dark hands.”
The reader is left with a sense of mystery and wonder over something which usually lacks any sort of mystique. Usually, anything involving machines or technology is devoid of the sense of ritual. The moment when the mower is turned on again, there’s a sense of rebirth and renewal.
In a society which is increasingly leaning towards the dystopian and science fiction, Cutler takes a different approach. He puts forth the idea that there is still magic and wonder in this world. He does so by showing how his children or his students view the world, such as when his daughter claims that “Moon looks like/a thumbnail,” then throws her nail clippings out for the birds. It’s this finding of the magical in the mundane which is the common thread that ties the pieces together.
One of poetry’s main functions is to challenge the reader to look at the world in a new way, and this book is a stunning example of doing just that. Cutler shows that family, myths, and nature are still places where one can find renewal, but he also hints that there is deeper meaning to be found where we might not usually look for it.