In his poetry collection, The Ambulatorium, Zak Mucha examines the arbitrariness of meaning and more.
“Each of us determines the links between events/ and God moves on the water like coincidence,” he tells readers in one piece. We cannot know the thing itself because, as he indicates in another, “Once we really see something/ we have changed it for good.”
Mucha uses bastard ghazals for most of his poems. The ghazal is a form of couplet derived via Goethe from the Sufis, dealing with the beauty and pain of love (often for God). The bastard ghazal (post-Goethe) doesn’t always rhyme or concern the beloved.
Indeed, this collection references everything from the undertow of smoking to old Mississippi bluesmen “with swollen ankles, bad hearts, and diabetes,” to Sonny Liston to a troubled girl with a “Cheese puff orange fingertips”—and more. This is dense stuff, often born in the streets—a place where dumpster graffiti can convey a marriage proposal—that sometimes confound. Lines don’t always logically follow one another, and often they evade clear understanding: “I stuffed the walls with green bricks of rat poison/ so you didn’t have the same dreams as me.”
Overall, though, they present a gestalt of vivid, intriguing images that prompt an emotional response and a kind of circling of the thing to be known, as an ambulatorium circles a holy space. The poems deal with ineffable existence, and the metaphors Mucha uses to approach it are sometimes tack-hard, sometimes surreal, and sometimes beautiful.
For example, in “Motina,” he sees “all the pit bulls in their coats and booties wait[ing] down in the subway…” In “The Workshop,” he describes “a menagerie of glass/ hammers trapping translucent pink skies/ and clouds of aquarium green….” In “Ever Since I Was a Kid I Heard,” he writes of “The ghost/ of a neutrino whispering” and a “filament’s gasp.”
The Ambulatorium isn’t an easy book; it requires repeated readings to mine its layers of meaning. For most, the effort will be worth it.