Humanity has always been fascinated with death and invented stories to explore the possibility of life beyond death. Gilgamesh, distraught over Enkidu’s death in one of the world’s oldest bromance stories, dives into the underworld to unlock the secret to eternal life, but is outsmarted by a clever snake. Orpheus nearly resurrects his dead lover Eurydice after a private concert for Hades and Persephone, but fails because he can’t resist sneaking a peek over his shoulder at the last minute. Our fascination with death and resurrection continues to this day in popular culture, where superheroes are killed and brought back to life more times than that fellow from Nazareth. The summer 2016 issue of Conduit magazine, Digging Lazarus, presents a selection of talented writers who add their voices to the ongoing exploration of death and resurrection.
The first poem to grab my attention is Bob Hicok’s “End of the work ethic.” This poem immediately opens with the image of an iconic figure who seems to defy the laws of death with the power of his music: “(alternate title: If Mick Jagger didn’t exist, / we’d have to invent him) / alternate alternate title: / I am old and afraid) (pacemaker).” Despite this form of eternal life, Hicok shows how the slow march of time can even bring down a rock and roll god as he struts across another stage:
Bum left foot. Gimpy right hip
& knee, elbow & shoulder. Blown-out
left groin. Also dizzy a lot.
The shooting pains
of self-doubt. But Stratocasters
don’t smash themselves.
Adding insult to the injury of old age is an apathetic audience who is too busy “yawning, checking for texts.” The speaker can’t get no satisfaction (sorry, couldn’t resist) and examines his feelings of emptiness and self-loathing: “I got so much empty / inside me, if you dropped a pebble / in my mouth, you’d never hear it.” Perhaps this aging musician can achieve resurrection through future generations downloading and listening to his music. Or maybe he will be forgotten in the whirlwind of rapid-fire texts and tweets from users with short attention spans.
Sandra Simonds is another talented poet who appears in this issue with her poems “Handcuffs” and “National Whatever Writing Month.” The opening stanza of “Handcuffs” has a wonderful tone and rhythm with allusions to Darwin and contemporary political issues: “I’m not returning your text. Too much / sap in the trees, displeasure in the lees. Felt despondent / about the origin of species / and revolution. Hands up don’t shoot (Polaroid).” Simond’s other poem shows a writer who has become cynical of NaNoWriMo: “I won’t write a novel this month about the gods no matter / how much they don’t pay me and I’m not going to read / anyone’s poetry book for money since they treat / me like a mechanic, their verse being / a bad carburetor I can’t hijack (pyre).” What I like the most about this poem by Simond is the resurrection of the speaker’s creative desire weaved into the tongue-in-cheek humor of the opening and closing stanzas:
If it could snow in Orlando.
If the waitress could look out the window and see the snow.
If she had dreams of snow that materialized as the backdrop
to the diner.
This resurrection is short-lived, though, as the speaker disregards their stream of consciousness and ends with “Forget the story. Just never mind. Nothing.” However, I would argue that something more is going on: the speaker cannot deny the lure of the essential question that motivates all writers and poets “What if . . . ?”
Editor William D. Waltz reaffirms our fascination with resurrection and how it applies to our creative nature: “All of us have a terminal condition, it’s called life. But before bidding adieu and hoping for a miracle, there’s plenty we can do, including reimagining our very own selves (altar).” The poetry, writings, artwork, and fascinating interview with M.R. O’Connor of this issue of Conduit examine this reimagining and resurrection of our fragile lives. The next issue should be as equally exciting and I would highly recommend subscribing to this unique journal.