Stranger in Town

Micah Ballard and Sunnylyn Thibodeaux have published Cedar Sigo’s latest collection, Stranger in Town (San Francisco: Auguste Press, 2006). It arrives stapled along the spine with a creamy cover page by Will Yackulic. The copy I have lists an edition of 150, so who knows how many are available now, a book destined to be reprinted for the sake of those with the pleasure of owning both editions of Selected Writings.

I’ve been reading this book for months now, wondering if and what I’d write about it here, hesitant to dilute it with the dross of a blog or some attempt at critical distance (an impossibility with Cedar’s marvelous poems – they induce marvels in readers). It seems to me built with minor chords, a lowness or retreat to an obscurity for the right reasons. But clear in its honor and devotion to a method, a kindness honed by Baudelairean cruelties:

“Your first presence
is that of a con man
down on his luck.
You cross on the ferry
and return
as it gets dark.”
(“Prince Valiant”)

The poems here take their place as mere shuttles, the failed attempts at recording a movement made vivid by memory’s lament. The poet self-consciously denigrates the notion of perpetuity, attuned to the repetition of stances over the additional decades as they arrive. Poems become more about the reader (this reader) than their conduit’s dramas, a collectivism of singles. They take after music singles, each one sufficient to the drama, seriousness absorbed by style. Place is set by the architecture of our personal maps, their mythological weight:

“I get so
tired at times
and thank

all of
the pills
for being

and the men
I thank as many

as I bring
to mind again
Fine lines”

These are gathered from the first two poems in this book, the rest are yours to find. The typewritten font of the one-sided pages marks the distinct shapes of stanzas as they vary, venture towards a dissolute sequence. The title poem reminds me of a feverish walk I underwent, from a train station blocks westward in San Francisco in 2003, on my way back to Boston from Honolulu, stranded but told to head towards the evening sun, feeling invisible or unnoticed by street corner gangsters (“I enjoy reading signs”), the lines weigh differently with each as they should.

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