Scared Text by Eric Baus

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A metamorphosis occurs among the prose poems of Eric Baus’ collection, Scared Text, winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry. We are the audience, the spectators, but also part of the scene as we remember change in our own lives and how it felt for us. From the outset of the collection, we follow the speaker and his companions through this change.

1. We begin in darkness. Life resets.

Has the sun repaired yet? (“Spoiled Swan”)

The doves died again. The dead doves reset. I arranged them into flowers. I have
never seen a flower. I have never seen a dove. (“Mirror Seed”)

2. Then, noise and space.

It felt so good to lie, all that noise loosening inside of me. (“A Delphi”)

I would like to be called A DIFFERENT HOUSE. (“A Delphi”)

The city was clovered in sound.
I like noise.
Iris likes space. She thinks it feels like snow. (“A Delphi”)

3. We come alive as we change. We inhabit our bodies in a certain way, for a certain time, as we change.

Here, the street was both omen and throat. The swarming sky sparrowed until day
withered, until the statue punched out of its skin. He was wearing his own arms.
His house showed. (“Votive Scores”)

Differing is one long moment. We cannot divide its songs. (“Canary Aria”)

See how green I can be. So stirred. (“Eggshell Plumbs”)

4. When we begin to become, how do we step out into the world and identify ourselves among others? Must we become beasts to have an identity, to wake from sleep, from the darkness of what we were?

I spoke my title and he hissed: Do not impinge upon my robes. No tent goes untorn. (“Negative Noon”)

When Minus isn’t posturing, Iris is the queen of the gray distance. Pre-gray, free.
As in, Hand me another dosed star. As in, Sing rendered. Sing posed. (“Negative Noon”)

This is the precursor of paralyzed film. The film cannot see itself until it becomes
a creature, a terrified series of tiny black dots. Its head is me, the scariest version.
(“Variant Aquarium”)

5. In seeking identity, does one begin to disappear, or does one morph?

The silhouette grew large and it spilled. The puma’s shadow absorbed a horse. It
was called The Blur when it stirred. (“Puma Mirage”)

6. What we’re heading toward is a metamorphosis, a change. It’s terrifying. How can you know what to expect when your life changes? You can’t.

He shook the snow from his clothes. No one whispered the destroyed elements
that would have framed his silence. (“Creature’s Creature”)

I think we are being minted again. I think we are cotton or bread. There is always
a different cost. A different cloth. A second coat. (“Common Cloud”)

Baus doesn’t give us one tale of change, but three (from the speaker, Minus, and Iris), and each is different. None of us react to or experience change in the same ways. None of our lives are the same. Yet, through this book, we can find a character or part of a character’s experience that mirrors our own, reminding us, as poetry always does, that we are not alone.

Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of the chapbook, Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in UCity Review, Waccamaw, Kestrel, Diode, and Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology of Very Short Poems. More from this author →