Control Bird Alt Delete
What do a grass skirt, refrigerator, buttons, bones of a dairy cow, magnets, an old cake mix, and a spider all have in common? All, somehow impressively, appear in the first poem of Control Bird Alt Delete, a collection of poetry by Alexandria Peary. In it, Peary deconstructs our worlds and examines our environment from the perspective of deletion. If we destroy our natural resources to make products that will never deteriorate, what will exist of our world? Peary offers a world with unicorn rainbow stickers and fake lilacs. What do a grass skirt, refrigerator, buttons, bones of a dairy cow, magnets, an old cake mix, and a spider all have in common? All, somehow impressively, appear in the first poem of Control Bird Alt Delete, a collection of poetry by Alexandria Peary. In it, Peary deconstructs our worlds and examines our environment from the perspective of deletion. If we destroy our natural resources to make products that will never deteriorate, what will exist of our world? Peary offers a world with unicorn rainbow stickers and fake lilacs.
In these tongue-in-cheek, kitschy poems full of broken language, hyperlinks, and bar codes—as if our world was up for purchasing—we get the immediate sense of the written word. At times, Peary corrects herself mid-poem in a way that creates energy for a language that must explode on the page.
I would like to only read these poems as social and environmental critique, but Peary is elegantly lyrical. If we are destroying our world through consumerism and an accumulation of stuff we don’t need, I am confident that the sound of language will persist. Often in two beat rhythms, Peary uses alliteration and slant rhyme to create an Orwellian world of poetry. She writes in the poem “Bath Toys Sit in the Description”:
Bath toys sit in the description,
in the flat-iron reflecting pool
in the colorlessness of underlining,
alphabets and people who expand in water:
astronauts and little children,
men made entirely of denim.
The line is what drives the rhythm here. The play of “in” with “iron” and “underlining” cues our ear for subsequent music. “Alphabets” and “astronauts” are lovely, but I could repeat “men made entirely of denim” all day.
It’s easy to get lost in the sound and forget the world Peary creates, though. In this world there’s the fear that what really matters in our lives won’t remain. We won’t have a landscape. Instead, we will have Yankee Candles and lavender scented Febreeze. These poems are warnings, asking us to take a closer look at our relationship with the environment, and in this request, Peary consistently disrupts our expectations. She changes moods, shifts direction, and acknowledges the reader as she’s writing.
In “In hallways made of dashes” she creates the out-of-body experience of seeing one’s self through a security camera:
I saw myself on a security screen as a stick figure
in a floor plan of dashes, rooms without floors, doors in ceilings.
[In the stairwell.] http: Emerging onto the roof of the building,
<waving for rescue>. It is not the described ex
perience of the poet that must be “resolved,” but
the actual experience of the reader.
I’m unsure of my own resolution. This collection of work raises more questions for me than it answers, but I am fascinated by how Peary builds a world based on the construction of language. Dashes, commas, hyphens, apostrophes—these will persist even though they are man-made. Our language is a construction. What has it deleted? What have we left out when we left behind our fingerprints, our names, our faces?
Peary’s an expert of the absurd. In “Oh Massachusetts” she “picks up the border” as if the line were a piece of yarn. She drops it, waves it, makes a profile of this odd state line we call a boundary. In each new poem, Peary is surprisingly fresh, and imaginatively exact. I fully believe the world she creates, and I’m drawn into it every time.
When reading Control Bird Alt Delete, I felt as if I were an archeologist examining our present day, but from thousands of years into the future. I now fear the copier machines and elevator chambers of which Peary writes. Can we reset our own deletion, Peary ultimately asks. Is the experience of the reader great enough to make a change? I would hope the answer is yes.