The prose poem is the perfect form for surreal vignettes that combine the tell-it-slant quality of poetry with the relaxed unfolding of a prose line. As in fables, the first sentences establish mysterious happenings as the new normal. There is no time for technical explanations of this strange world that waits inside our own. Mary A. Koncel’s assured voice convinces us that we live in a place where farmers burst into flames, lusty women smell men’s ripeness in the air, and horses wait prayerfully for their owners to fall back in love.
Koncel’s debut chapbook of prose poems, Closer to Day, was published in 1999 by Quale Press, one of the numerous small presses that enrich our Western Massachusetts culture. The editors have kindly given me permission to share the work below. For more of her work, check out her 2003 full-length collection from Tupelo Press, You Can Tell the Horse Anything.
The Neighborhood Man
A dog is rolling in the grass. A man walks by and thinks the dog is drowning. But the man’s not sure because he’s just a neighbor. The dog is very convincing, turning over and over, its long legs kicking up clumps of grass. The man strips off his suit, drops to his knees, and rolls in after the dog. He hopes the dog can hold on just a while longer.
The man is having problems. He’s getting very tired, barely able to keep his head above the grass. It’s very late. He hopes this will be over soon. But the dog is getting smaller, the grass much deeper.
Bless This Night
It’s almost like heaven out here. Ten miles of angel-pin turns, glittering blacktop, then a pair of straight yellow lines leading right to sweet soul of opossum, twin spirits of skunks.
Driving home, I think about Saint Francis, imagine him wandering through the woods, a flock of swallows buzzing his left eardrum, a raccoon or two draped over his shoulders like a favorite cardigan. A tall, awkward man, he had hands with white palms and strong straight fingers.
Out here, under these brooding stars and stark moon, animals are just as abundant. Cut loose from fur and body, they languish along the road: rabbits begin to hurry but stop in mid-air, a fox sniffs its blood, surprised by its cold, exquisite beauty, while tree frogs swallow deep, vaguely tasting the last sounds in their throats.
“Keep still,” Saint Francis would warn if he walked among these animals. “Keep still.” One hand pressed against his lips, the other held in blessing, he would stop at each one that raised its head and wanted more.
I could stop. I could stop, drop to my knees, and hold out my hands like Saint Francis, tell these animals that they have been good, good and wild. It’s time to surrender their hearts to me, their long and mournful howls, their hunger. Bless this night, bless this road and all that makes it heaven.