On Reading Drew Pisarra’s "Infinity Standing Up"
It’s not easy to run into enjoyable and unashamedly sassy poems about love and its disappointments. Drew Pisarra’s Infinity Standing Up does the trick. The book delivers clever, cheeky, relatable, pleasing and sad sonnets. While very sexual, sensually and romantically masculine (the sonnets do deal with queerness and homosexuality), they keep a playful rhythm that contrast with the laments. Few things feel worse than the anguish of romance. The well disguised sonnets deal with this in a playful and humorously self-deprecating way, with a light voice that doesn’t dwell too long on the tragic elements of love. The rhyme scheme is almost unnoticeable but strikes and pleases when caught.
The title is ironic, playing on infinity and the number 8: if cats had nine lives, then we’d have one less, 9-1. The foreverness of loss. Are we lucky or unlucky to fall in love? Passions and thrills, heartaches and grief, walk hand in hand. Every line is a lyric lamentation of the inevitable blunders we commit in the name of love. “Sonnet 10-4” (p23) is a testimony to the pathetic language that we have to resort to when we talk about love, better playful than brutal. “My heart / broke more often than cheap dinnerware.” This sonnet, though cheesy, becomes a comedy through its self-awareness: “Your / crack about how our romance came in spurts / was the double entendre that made me / laugh ‘til it hurt.” The play here, seems to be a joke on anal sex. And it continues with more clever lines : “At times, / your going seems Shakespearean. Alack!” Alack, Alas… A lack. Pisarra ends the poem with a cheesy line that could fit any modern pop song lyrics about love: “You stole my heart but I don’t want you back” and it’s the very childlikeness of this line that pleases, this attempt to dismiss a hurt.
When the end first came, I wrote you a poem,
then I wrote another when it ended
again. Our breakup just kept on going
and going as if we had intended
to never be friends. It was lovers or
nothing, good-for-nothing at that. My heart
broke more often than cheap dinnerware. Your
crack about how our romance came in spurts
was the double entendre that made me
laugh ‘til it hurt. I could write you more rhymes
of what I’ll miss, of our urbanity,
of chances lost, of verse undone. At times,
your going seems Shakespearean. Alack!
You stole my heart but I don’t want you back.”
“Sonnet L” (p40) also found its way among my favorites. Pisarra plays with the image of a squeaky, used bed and its invocations. Of course the sonnet is about sex, and I really enjoy how it plays with the sounds of sex. The first half of the poem indulges lust through an alliteration of “Ss”: “This bed has a headboard made of metal, / a mattress with at least one broken spring.” The first two lines invite us into the realm of sex and the invocations continue until the second half of this single stanza: “It looks quite stolen from a hospital / in a county prison or some sad thing / cast off by an orphanage. It looks used. / It is that. Old too. Half a century. / It can squeak one awake during a snooze / or creak out scores for acts of lechery.” Then the author masterfully reduces this alliteration to introduce the emotional half of the poem: “That’s what it’s been doing the last half-hour, / making rhythmic noise like two panicked mice…” This confession is almost apologetic, how the characters in the poem are compared to mice, how the author reduces his use of “Ss” to makes us catch his shame. The author finally eases into some tragic elements, obsession, need, grief, longing, in the four final lines “or a voice of steel, that’s better, crying out / the need, the need, the need, oh how nice, / the need the need the need. That’s what I hear / on sheets that look clean until you come near.” As mentioned before, the author confesses this “need” as a weakness “mice… nice,” but the plea attracts sympathy and how could one say no to such a plea? Maybe confessions are the only absolutions.
I found the book fun to read, brave in its play on Shakespeare, and courageous in its exploring of love, of masculine love, through a unique and sincere voice. I’ll leave you with “Sonnet L” :
This bed has a headboard made of metal,
a mattress with at least one broken spring.
It looks quite stolen from a hospital
in a county prison or some sad thing
cast off by an orphanage. It looks used.
It is that. Old too. Half a century.
It can squeak one awake during a snooze
or creak out scores for acts of lechery.
That’s what it’s been doing the last half-hour,
making rhythmic noise like two panicked mice,
or a voice of steel, that’s better, crying out
the need, the need, the need, oh how nice,
the need the need the need. That’s what I hear
on sheets that look clean until you come near.”
Darryl / Dadou / Baron Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative Writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.