Ezra Dan Feldman’s poetry collection “Habitat of Stones” (Tebot Bach, 2016) is tied together by a certain “arrogant man.” This recurrent theme throughout the collection also bumps up against notions of the body: its finitude, its mortality and the struggles and regret of intimate relationships.
The “arrogant man” frequents the titles of several of Feldman’s poems and is also tucked within the works themselves. Feldman’s “arrogant man” seems to be a muse (whether real or not is inconsequential) which lets him write.
In “A Jungle Friend” the arrogant man appears to be an intimate friend:
“The arrogant man hums Shostakovich. We watch cartoons, naked
on top of the covers, and my fear’s the fear of half-apt hooligans in
a warehouse surprised by extra blackness in the night when the bat
kills the light.”
In “The Arrogant Man (My Man)” the scene becomes even more intimate:
“In which we collided in half-sleep.
In which God, not prudence, said so, and so I said, “Settle me here,”
not meaning only for a time.
In which the arrogant man half understood and halved the canvas gap
between us in the tent, intent on daring what not daring would have
made him fully afraid.”
The intimacy slowly gives way to scenes of separation in “Codicil of The Arrogant Man”:
“You peering cautiously beneath the sheet
as if still hardly daring, now the moon was dead,
to check out its backside.
How often we’d teased each other
about pinching its behind,
if only it would ever turn around.”
In “Letter for the Arrogant Man” the separation gives way to a certain melancholia with contemplation of death, of mortality:
“Even after I die, my fingers will play
across his skin – late petals dropping
in the north wind – already my touch so light
it hardly belongs to me.
Like words my fingers’ movements
are his when they’ve left me,
nails, knuckles, feathers
The contemplation on mortality is recurrent in the collection whenever the gaze is directed towards the body. In “Four Leaf Clover,” the reader is jolted with a near-death experience:
“I know to get out of my seatbelt.
I sense that by a miracle I am unscathed,
that no one else is around.
But after I crawl out the window
you show me the other car,
crushed like clover.
Now I watch the policeman
questioning me. I’m walking slow
across a burning field,
telling the doctor how impossibly I stand
in relation to everything.
The radio plays a partita. The sun
plays checkers with the floor.”
In “Schematic of Procreation” Feldman asks self-referentially:
“Who made me
interested in tangles of wires,
of bodies and their parts
and the physical properties of elements?”
In the closing piece “The Body as One,” the “arrogant man” has disappeared. He is not addressed anymore as “the arrogant man”:
“Bruised bundle, touch me again.
Climb on. I’ll lift us both
for forgiveness –
for the cuff quick
to the tissue
that contracts –
for the contacts we brush end to end
lightly, lightning, write down
our name again, compact
between tongue and pen.”
This collection of Feldman’s poems appear to be deeply confessional, yet ciphered enough to not make the references overtly obvious. If the collection is anything, it is a prayer of/for the lonely. Feldman after all quotes from Genesis unflinchingly “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
Check our Feldman’s pieces from Newfound Journal Vol. 2 Issue 3 here.
Debarun Sarkar is a writer currently based in Calcutta, India.