Einstein Fledermaus, Marc VincenzBackground colour is dark orange. There is a large image in the centre of an open umbrella (black). There is a lightbulb, lit, where the central spoke would usually be. The curved handle has the head of an ornamental bird. Pamphlet tiltle is above the umbrella in large italic handwriting font, filling most of the width of the page. The poets name is right justified in bold, pale orange lowercase.

SurVision Books, 2021   9.50

S = EL2

As interesting as the poet’s philosophical musings and explorations of Johann Strauss’s operetta are, it is neither these, nor the way the post-Newtonian world of the operetta’s protagonist (von Eisenstein) and the physics of Albert Einstein are portrayed here, that fascinate me most. It is the animals going about their daily business, unconcerned with scores, librettos, performances, universal laws, relativity or humans.

The first creature that gently but firmly asked me to consider her as a metaphor was a racoon who ‘comes into the picture with all her whiskers; she stirs beneath the trees like she’s making soup.’ (‘Liquefaction’) Then, when I started reading more attentively, I discovered ‘Ducks and geese / set off everywhere’ (‘Oil of Sanctification’). As the poem ends, they are beginning their journey.

And at the end of ‘Undying Love Tentacles’

A viper slithers through tall grass.

[ ... ]

Out in the ocean, birds, whales and turtles migrate,
give birth, until they drift into sleep.

The racoon stayed with me through every poem and her equanimity and supremacy were only challenged, albeit briefly, by the image of the jelly fish in ‘An Undoing; or, At Three a.m. in the Pharmacy in a Big City on the Ocean’:

Three dollars for a gallon and two more
cents for a glazed donut. Eat it in

the moonshine, under the pines,
on the park benches. See how

the ferns bow, watch the puffed-up
plastic bags rise to the light like jellyfish, and listen

to the incessant clamouring and chittering
of all those damn squirrels and crickets.

Again, this poem ends with creatures going about their own lives and making no discernible judgement on human behaviour: creative, scientific or otherwise. Not even on the English in ‘Towards the Holy Land’ (a prose poem) who:

say they came to this place to write history, not for the jackals or the foxes, not for the mangy lions and their filigree of weeds

And at the end of ‘An Offshoot’:

Somewhere in the ocean
the eels are lost,
turning into seaweed.

Could Einstein have written an equation for that? Can anyone?

Sue Butler