DESTRUCTION OF MAN, BY ABRAHAM SMITH
Story, labor, and hymn cohabitate the rust-strewn fields of Abraham Smith’s fifth full-length book, Destruction of Man. Smith’s speaker, being “one [of] such hickness sir,” is in turn gracious and irreverent, celebrating generations of symbiosis between the land and our animal bodies, yet the same mouth that shapes “land farms you / touches you / tractor and dips / a tongue in every word / of land and of you,” evokes also the “bog barf rheumatic” and “piss like a bullet in the ground.” Beauty exists in the world on Smith’s page—a beauty that oozes, shudders, cusses, curses.
Structured as a long poem divided into twelve titled sections, Smith’s words beg for an ululating tongue to sing them from page to air. “it sometimes seems / i take aim at ghosts with ghosts,” the speaker confesses, and in this we see that Destruction of Man does precisely what its title invokes. Through haunted language, Smith sets in motion a series of slow explosions in the book’s characters, landscapes, semantics, and even in us, the readers. That said, Smith takes care to rebuild what he deconstructs. The book’s final image—a figure “bare and bared and / new to young” sprouts like new grass in a field, waiting to see what elements (man or rain or rust) determines its mature form.