Zion Offramp 1–50
Calling to mind the purgatorial flare and matter-of-factness of Weimar painters such as Otto Dix and George Grosz, the hectic tableaux of Mark Scroggins’s chronicle-poem sketch the half-lives of the disenchanted, often smudged away with gusto—and remorse (and humor). The end of the known world is teeming with the suddenly aging, as one might expect, but also with those (old and young alike) who simply feel that the world is changing too fast to remain comprehensible. The dementia of the penultimate, of being left behind—of one’s own remains—becomes the essential condition of everyday life in these intimate and unsparing stanzas.
Zion Offramp is freeway-speedy and fitted out with exits to everywhere from the siege of Corioli to a contemporary check-out line to the Cotswolds, and it’s chock-full of all the objects that crowd our late-capitalism, late-consumerism world—GPSs, SUVs, Martians, ouija boards, and bodies in the library. It’s a festival of specifics whose complete incongruity is the best reason for gathering them all together, a riot of the unlikely with low-key humor humming always in the background—completely engaging!
This important book-length poem begins as an Arthurian romance, its Perceval waking into an alien world—ours and eventually his—fragmented, disorienting and endlessly contradictory. One of our dilemmas is how to allow poetic reflection when our field of perception is so perpetually unsettled. Scroggins admits “it’s all beyond imagery entirely—a big blur, not even a blur, a series of waves … forces, not really that either.” Nature, birds and trees, provide brief interludes, but landscape is “compassed by the steering wheel’s arc,” and the city is “the city’s theme park.” The One, occasionally sought, always gives way to a discordant many, to a miasma of the looney stuff that crowds into our thought. Scroggins’s answer to William Carlos Williams’s now-100-year-old question, “How shall I be a mirror to this modernity?” is to let the mirror shatter and follow what you can of what is reflected in its whirling pieces.