A manual for inner fires


Vincent Pagé, In a Burning Building the Air Inside is Heated by Fire and So Becomes Lighter.  Toronto: Desert Pets press, one hundred numbered copies, 2016.


It seems true that poetry can be found in just about any text, if one knows how to look.  And using another publication can be a useful way to bring cohesion to a handful of one’s own poems.  Vincent Pagé has looked into The Fire Services Manual Volume 1 to find both the title for his chapbook and each of twenty poems within.  Of course the idea of fire as a symbol (sometimes ironically) of emotional and physical passion is hardly new but that doesn’t prevent it from working well.  Interestingly, passion doesn’t always mean sex.  It sometimes means sleep and sometimes means dreaming/imagining, as in these lovely lines:

Let’s steep our bodies overnight
in the carriage of a caravan I’ll steal

or borrow without asking – return it when finished
homesteading next to some river near the ocean

We’ll retire our phones to cup holders for a whole
day and night

and inside
condensate will collect and slide

open thin windows in the window
Beyond a valley the river can call out to the sound

Asleep I’ll tell you that of all the parking lots
I’ve slept in this one by far is my favourite

This fantasy of running away is pretty easy (for me, at least) to fall into, and it occurs in the romantic, humorous, serious “For the System to Balance, there Must Be an Equal”:

Let’s   move to France
Let’s   start a business
Let’s   save our money
             do crosswords for two months
Let’s   buy a boat

And on and on.  One might not pick up at first the air of sadness and perhaps just a bit of desperation, a desire for connection, intimacy, escape that may be more hoped for than accomplished.

Pagé is a careful writer, neatly judging the effect of a line space or a single word.  There’s this moment of down-and-out intimacy that is made tender by the last word: “The toilet bowl breaks like a chipped tooth / so we piss in the sink for a week darling”.  The rest of this short, poem, however, I immediately forgot.  This experience happened to me quite often, the lines not quite adding up to a larger whole.    Instead, what I often took away was a single fine line, phrase, or image.

I don’t know how to mourn


a boy intent in tall grass


Want to count
your hard


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