Hanging in the Air like a Heart Balloon: Sheryda Warrener’s Floating is Everything

storing up whatever good
fortunes float in air

The future. At night a ticking
I didn’t hear before. I dislocate
the tiny golden arm
so I can rest.

In Flatland, Edwin Abbott famously imagines a two dimensional world. Here, Warrener creates a world stacked upward between the concepts of gravity and floating, where objects and ideas lift off or are weighed down. She threads a line from earth clear up to space (“sky’s / a thing we’re sure we’ll never / run out of”), where

April 12, 1961, is a pinhole
our whole nation slid through
like a sliver into sky

In “Trace Object,” a prose-poetry longpoem, the narrator moves from room to room in her grandmother’s house, lifting up heirlooms and familiar objects that have been labeled as to their eventual owner. “Turn this or that over, a little death lets out” and in the following poem,

“Whatever giant paperweight / tamps us down, it isn’t sky.”

Warrener writes powerfully, whether through personal and poignant life experiences as in “Half-Deflated Heart Balloon,” or through abstract art installations as in “Oh, Yoko,” but especially when her liquid phrasing is allowed to breathe, either in long, unstructured stanzas or in blocks of prose-poems. Poems such as “Pluto Forever” seem stifled in comparison, with its short, choppy lines and torque-less line breaks, a poem that reads much better when its structure is ignored. In contrast, listen to the way these lines from “A Sudden Gust” sing and inspire:

Walk empty-minded
into the cranberries and rainwater. Look how
the rectangles of paper become sky! It makes sense now

why the mountain’s not there

“I’m gunning / for permanence. I want to be rigged / taut as a mainsail, blown out with the wind. Cut loose,” the narrator muses in “Reincarnation Study 1982,” after reflecting on responses to the questionnaire: in what form would you like to come back? We want to be caught in the wind with her, to be somewhere between earth and space. We see our dreams and desires like the narrator’s ‘Baby’ in “Half-Deflated Heart Balloon,” with its beautiful unpunctuated sentences that spill up and down the page like a ladder, or like ties on a kite’s tail:

Baby screams knowing the thing

he wants is hanging

in air like a heart balloon

A poem is

a way of dreaming after what

I want and can’t have


Al Rempel’s books of poetry are This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For and Understories. His poems have been published in a variety of journals and he has a recent chapbook called Four Neat Holes (Leaf Press, 2016). He can be found at alrempel.com.



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