Home > Poetry > Recognition Failure Horror
Published: Tue Jul 1 2008
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Recognition Failure Horror

Years you’ve been walking around this place.
Something compels you outside to walk again:
grating crow-calls, incessant twitch of wagtails,
a breeze that can’t open anything cool
in this harsh summer morning. There
is no moisture to be sucked out of anything,
but this should also be familiar. Outside,
walking trails worn as if hundreds of sheep
made daily use of them, but none do, only
you, small animal life and insects crossing
erratically, or in set-patterns that don’t declare
themselves to you, or if they have in the past,
no longer do so. A branch of jam tree snapped
under the weight of mistletoe has dried to crumbling,
and you don’t remember when it fell,
though you recall you’re always vigilant.
Something like sugar glass crunches
beneath your boots. Oat stubble spikes
then gives way. Repetition
should have flattened the last spikes
months ago. There’s no point of connection.
It’s as if the constant, persistent, obsessive
mapping and naming and blood-letting of self
into the same place—your place—
was a ruse, a ghosting, a skin-deep
placation of the need for location.
You’ve forgotten every sensation,
but the names of what you see
pop up like crib cards.

John Kinsella’s new book of stories, Pantheism, is forthcoming in Australia in late 2020; his new book of poetry, Insomnia, is forthcoming from W. W. Norton next year also. His critical book Polysituatedness was published by Manchester University Press in 2016. His Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley was published in 2010 by Liverpool University Press. He is a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and professor of literature and environment at Curtin University, Western Australia. (updated 9/2019)

Kinsella’s Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems was reviewed in AGNI Online by Eric McHenry

Back to top