This Week, I Read Erik Fuhrer: not human enough for the census

Image Credit: Paul Biñas via Unsplash

“some bodies have always been haunted/their houses built on toxic remains/their bodies breathing in/the dust of industry’s buried bones,” the speaker says in Erik Fuhrer’s collection of apocalyptic ecopoetry, not human enough for the census.

The poetry in this collection involves stunning wordplay and the absurd that is stylistically similar to e.e. cummings. The poems are accompanied by the dreamlike, earthy paintings of Kimberly Androlowicz.

“I/find you very dark/very sad hook caught in the mouth/of the world,” the speaker in one Fuhrer’s untitled poems says. This line comes after the speaker has already declared themselves broken. There’s a recognition between the speaker and the “you” who is being addressed. Neither of them is whole and happy–they both have a shadow side. The image of the hook pulling down the corner of the mouth creates a forced frown.

“taste me bread-child I am silk in/the throat/I am the presence of all that is absent,” the speaker goes on to say. This line is really intriguing. It comes off as sensual, yet the “you” is referred to as a bread-child, which is absurd, and I love it. A bread baby is when someone has a paunch after eating a lot of carbs, so as far as pet names go, this is a little bit of a downer to be called, but at the same time–it’s really par for the course as far as this collection goes. On top of that, “I am silk in the throat,” is suddenly a very abruptly dangerous image as silk, stuffed down someone’s throat would cause them to suffocate. (If you’re familiar with the story of Bella and the Wych Elm, the woman found in the tree had been murdered by having a bit of her taffeta skirt forced down her throat, but I digress).

“I am the presence of all this is absent,” really makes the speaker seem sinister. A lack of presence is always noted. In terms of grieving, there’s an ache that accompanies the absence of someone who has died, which really goes with the silk in the throat that comes before it.

The final line in this poem is: “let me fill you/let me return the dust to your body/the moth to your heart.” The returning of dust to the body really evokes the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from the funeral rites. Then, the final image of the moth to the heart is rather curious. I like it a lot. It still evokes a sense of unease, but at the same time, it’s a really powerful ending. It makes me think of The Silence of the Lambs, which is one of my favorite movies.

In a time when the absurd and the outrageous is the norm, this book is remarkably on point. I really needed this book this week because it acknowledges that the state of the world is not what it should be. The progression of each piece is really interesting; one thing comes out of another, in ways that are unexpected and exquisite. Fuhrer’s technique is brilliant and I loved this book. not human enough for the census is available now through Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.

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