The poems in Me With Animal Towering swerve from accessible blank verse monologues to slangy, narrative prose poems to obscure, fragmented pieces in the mode of language poets to irony-drenched, linguistically sharp verse commentaries reminiscent of Susan Wheeler. “I’m not an architect,” says the narrator of “The Master Builder,” a narrative piece in which a man, “alone and sad because of a recent break-up,” lusts after his neighbor’s house sitter, a pretty Texan with a yen for drugs. “No profession at all, except maybe that of Explainer.”
Like his character, Albert Mobilio, an award-winning essayist and book critic, is at his best when he allows himself to explain. His finest poems are his least cryptic: the deceptively simple prose poems, the monologues and commentaries, such as “That Lost Highway,” a sly tale of sexual awakening. “I was beginning to use/four-lettered words, to use the Public Library,” recounts the narrator. His lover is “snug in her unthreatened skin,/like a glistening rubber stamp/freshly daubed in ink.” The more opaque works, such as the title poem, read like nods to current poetic fashion, which demands a level of wacky obscurity and grammatical playfulness: “So go cremator. And hobnobbing hobs thusly. These Flight/removals, they’re clannish.”
As the title suggests, Mobilio finds the thread that links these formally disparate poems in the base impulses that lurk in the human brain and body. Like D.H. Lawrence, Mobilio constructs these inarticulate animalistic tendencies as a kind of alternative self—an entirely separate entity that exists alongside one’s rational self, tempering it and towering over it. “Everywhere, the salt/smell of bodies revved up, ready to flare. Voices,/hoarse and sated, rode a damp breeze,” describes the omniscient narrator of “Ground Swell,” a gorgeously veiled evocation of, it seems, a Christian revival. While the kids stay inside, cleaning up after the meeting, the men venture outside to smoke, “their exhalations thickened under the awning,” their sexual selves materializing like cartoon ghosts.
The animal within is a provocative subject, and one that compliments Mobilio’s rigorously intellectual sensibility, much as the abstract moments in this collection temper the more rhetorical and narrative poems. Filled with deft and surprising movements, Me With Animal Towering offers constant surprises for the reader and quite a few rewards.