Why did I choose "Big Bang" as Bacopa Literary Review 2016's Second Place Prize in Poetry? Because it's a fine example of a prose poem, not only playful in form (note the numbered headings) but edgy and courageous in its occasional promiscuity. Note also the daring in Leslie Anne Mcilroy's clever handling of a highly creative and unique theme in which each planet of the solar system is personified; that is, given human characteristics. I like an enterprising poet who's not afraid of judgment, willing to take the risk of writing her passion while at the same time keeping the poem controlled and tight.
This exceptionally creative poem, with its undertone of sensuality and sexuality, incorporates extensive alliteration, assonance, imagery, and other well-handled poetic devices. Its underlying themes and implications are far-reaching and significant. I generally balk at the use of "you" in a poem. Unless used skillfully, the second person point of view can create an awkward and often tiresome read. But it works here because it's used only enough for us to identify with the scenes Mcilroy paints. The "you" slips into the background while we read the poem.
The allusion to Syzygy in the first stanza (from ancient Greek "yoked together") refers to the alignment of sun, moon, earth, as in an eclipse. In astrology, the degree to which the moon is waxing or waning prior to one's birth is called the Prenatal Syzygy. And so "Big Bang" is born:
1. Date with Syzygy
More than once, the sun and the moon doing things they've never, trading light for dark, all eclipse and aerial acrobatics. The stars, blinking with confusion, bumping into clouds in broad daylight, dawn and dusk dancing in drag, roosters crowing at twilight and me, here at the window, waiting for a universe.
2. Sex with Mercury
He's moving so fast, first tongue and then on your nipple. Hot then cold, the way he presses his c--k against your thigh and turns away, as if to make you beg for it, send some kind of message. You'd like to f--k him and his runner's calves, but he's empty, mouth like a crater, makes you want to give him something, anything--light, beauty, a moon.
3. IM with Venus
You don't identify as lesbian or even bi, but she is so lovely, a sister, the way she offers to comb your hair, keep your secrets. You chat late, whisper, find yourself daydreaming of something so bright your future can't hold it. She's strong and a little pushy--that time she said she would crush you if you kissed her, how you can't see her surface for her soul.
4. Dancing with Mars
Follow his steps. He thinks you know them, looks up your number on his iphone, noting you were filed as organized, Type A. He likes that, he says as he spirals your body, caught finally to his chest, and spreading his scarlet cloak over your shoulders, says perhaps you should take a breather, chill out, slips his red pen in your pocket, hot in his cardinal pants.
5. Ring Toss with Jupiter
It is a strange date, like bowling, but you acquiesce, thinking you can throw all kinds of things and hit the mark. I mean, he's not Saturn or anything. You were wrong and all your rings lie outside the target. As you collect them, you hear him say something to his friends about largesse, how he might buy you coffee anyway, despite your small heart, your need for solidity.
6. Reconnecting with Saturn
Far more challenging than the ring toss, this. "There is a circle inside you," he says. "You hold it like a question, want to know the answer, but I only want to hold you now and then." Time is a zero, less dense than water, and you bathe in his beauty, walk round and round in the sun's dim light, say something about giving more than you receive--heat--leave to go home, but find yourself circling back, dizzy--bands of light orbiting like cuffs, like chains, always returning to the same place.
7. Coffee with Uranus
The jokes are too obvious and the froth, flat. Standing in the rear of the line, you wonder who will pay. You order an Americano, he, an espresso. Far from discovered, you hunch over your cup and wait out the silence. Nothing is what you have to talk about and you do it well. When you leave, he thanks you for paying. You think he is slow and forgive him his lack of genteel, slip over to the bar and order something stronger.
8. Cocktails (or Not) with Neptune
You order Pino Grigio and he looks at you with a sneer, demands water straight up, practicing hydration. You ask for water, too, but don't touch it. Sip by sip, the wine goes down and he goes on about how glorious the world is sober. His body is warm, like a pool, but you can't swim. When you say goodnight, he kisses you and you swallow, go back to the bar, have another.
9. Lunch with PlutoHe squints at the appetizers, a blur of 9-point serif font, leans back in his chair almost tipping the axis, and you feel a sharp intake of breath, so cold, you put your sweater on and order soup. He tosses the menu aside, orders the special and leans in, smaller with each word, says he's interested in intimacy, in getting closer, but you seem so distant, so far away.
10. Making Out with EarthHis hands are big and a little clumsy, tongue wet like the oceans and breath, dry as the Mojave. He doesn't seem to have a grasp on purpose, to engage, to excite, embrace, but rather to separate. I say to him, "Let me in." He says he has walls. I say "We are not alike." He says "Don't say that out loud." He is weary with the working of the bra strap and I with his flags, more red than blue or white. In the end, he gives up. Tells me about continents of desire, his hard-on for assimilation. When I leave, he tucks the bar tab in a history book, says the cost of being together is too much to pay.
11. Email with the MoonIt's a hard job, this coming out every night without a day off, everyone measuring your luminess. What he wouldn't give to sleep in, order takeout, watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You empathize, though you are far from systemic, doing only enough to get by. He says he likes how you sometimes fail to be at your desk at 8:30 am, how creative you are with clocks. He could learn something from not having to rise. LOL.
The final lines speak of the moon and the sun. Note the circling back in imagery to the first line (Date with Syzygy) and the neat tying up of the poem with the clever last line.12. Dinner with the SunIt's hard to choose a restaurant. You go back and forth: Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Ethiopian. I am everywhere, says Sun, and if I choose one, the others will give me the cold shoulder. 27 million degrees of obligation. Finally, we go to my place, where I pour stiff drinks and cook eggs with basil, rice with cumin--flavors so bright, we are blinded with hunger. Beating down on the table, Sun says I'm warming up to you. And I say, that's just the moonshine talking.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for Gravel, the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space, and the 1997 Chicago Literary Award. Her second book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press, and Slag by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Leslie's poems appear in Connotation Press, Grist, Jubilat, The Mississippi Review, The Nervous Breakdown, PANK, Pearl, Poetry Magazine, New Ohio Review, The Chiron Review, and more. She is co-founder and managing editor of HEArt -- Human Equity through Art (see "A Conversation with Leslie Anne Mcilroy). Leslie works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh.
(The "adult language" above is correctly presented in the print journal, but disguised here because we don't want to mark this site as having "adult" content, which creates viewing problems for some people. See Blogger's policy regarding adult language.)