A Hint of Threat Suggests Itself: Peter Joseph Gloviczki's Kicking Gravity

Kicking Gravity by Peter Joseph Gloviczki
Salmon Poetry, 2013 (70 pages)
ISBN: 978-1-908836-24-3

I discovered the work of Minneapolitan poet Peter J. Gloviczki via elimae magazine, which published a strikingly straightforward three-word poem of his way back in 2008. Here it is, in its epigrammatic entirety:

Her grin

is a rope.
Gloviczki's deceptively simple metaphor (one thing = another) allows great room for speculation, and it's easy to elaborate flirtatious tales of fated attraction or steamy scenes of BDSM and innuendo. (One astute group of students in Newark, New Jersey devised an especially horrifying story that involved an escaped slave and the town sheriff's sinister daughter in antebellum Carolina.) The bulk of Gloviczki's chapbook, Drinking River Water, adheres to haiku-like limits, and I've since admired Gloviczki's ability to craft subtle, suggestive lyrics with tight syllabic restriction.

Kicking Gravity brings the taut-lipped whisper of "Her grin" to expressive fruition, in compact verses that often create parallactic shifts from subject to object. The effect is like persistent, forward motion that somehow also reels the reader away. Glovickzi achieves this through fractured, haunting imagery: an outline of Indiana that enlarges as Dad scuffs the floor with table legs, or an abandoned snowman looming in the frosted window at dinner. Half the collection's composed in what appears to be prose, lines that run from margin to margin. Gloviczki's knack for narrative persists, marked by the enigmatic gestures of an intimate, eliding voice that depicts scenes of strange domesticity, populated with family members-often called only sister, aunt, or Mom—a violent father figure, and the given names of many women (Sara, Anne, Jenna, et c.). But the most dangerous and enticing moments manifest in romantic relationships. Take "Dating Caroline," e.g.:

Sharp noises made her shiver, postcards from men who slept
next to her. The wrong gust of wind sent her sprinting, and
windows shutting made her jump. Thunder took dinner under
the table. I should know. I was her breakfast muffin, her
morning pretzel-anything for the one who called me lover. (24)
In this odd, discombobulating world of precarious parting and talking foodstuffs, Gloviczki forces readers to reconsider the demands of communicative roles. Lover's a word that repeats frequently, always with new resonance, like when an unnamed couple echoes to each other: "What makes a life, lover, tell me." Over the course of Kicking Gravity, these identities evolve, with scenes repeating from different players' perspectives until, eventually, the "lover" graduates to "wife." In "What We Keep II," a spouse broaches the kind of silence that, perhaps, keeps people close:

Before bed, I used to lie awake and count as many dots on the
ceiling as I could. I once counted thirteen hundred; I was
seventeen. Our house burned down the next summer. I still lie
in bed sometimes. My wife will ask me what I'm doing, and
I'll tell her I'm remembering. I never tell her more than that; I
don't plan to. (46)
What begins as mundane remembrance resolves to a stream of seeming non-sequiturs and ends with the speaker's decision never to share more than vague insight into the mind's inner workings. With this, the speaker draws lines and measures distance, seeks sanctuary in the hidden nooks and mental crannies people carve out for personal space. Many of Gloviczki's poems end this way, obsessed with omission, jumping straight to denouement or reluctant anticlimax. This penchant for midstream departure serves to disrupt expectations for narrative closure and continues to pry at thorny questions of language and meaning. But Gloviczki's no stranger to lasting sensory impression, as in "Breakfast," about as definitive a finale we get:

I pull the check out from under the coffee cup. Tell me, Mom
says, why you let him die. I tell her that after a while there's
nothing you can do, that after a while the organs go rogue. She
pulls out a pocketknife and sets it on the table. With a sure
hand, she spins it. I watch the knife make its red circles, how
the Swiss cross becomes a blur and then stops. (51)
Again, the poem seems to want to continue across the page, but a final silence intrudes when the knife's logo stops its hypnotic revolution. The slimmest hint of threat presents itself, only to freeze and leave the reader wanting. Which raises an interesting question about the kind of writing Gloviczki's doing with Kicking Gravity, so different from much of what he's published in the past.

It's worth noting that "Dating Caroline" took second place in a flash fiction contest sponsored by Blue Earth Review the same year elimae published "Her grin." Notable, because attempts to distinguish "prose poetry" from "flash fiction" almost always hinge on naming whatever's at the heart of each genre. (I recall Robert Olen Butler defining a handy formula: if desire ? fiction.) Folks can debate the relevance of plot, syllabics, and character development until the cattle return, but Gloviczki seems actually to have eased the two into each other, blurring lines and ignoring camps: Kicking Gravity navigates the difficult terrain of interpersonal expression in passages of subtle, tantalizing language that leaves ample room for readers to enjoy the equation.

Diego BŠez writes regularly for Whole Beast Rag and Booklist. Poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared most recently in Kweli, Treehouse, and The Rumpus. He lives and teaches in Chicago.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761