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CJ Christine's F20 Grail 12

David Kuhnlein

F20 Grail 12
CJ Christine
Expat Press, 2022


20 Grail 12 resurrects a dead zeitgeist to butter up our own, a kind of controlled choke outside time. Christine’s book combines ASCII art with minimalistic free verse, a neon-printed nineteen-nineties sky pressed in cake. Silent dialectics manifest, be-costumed nylons a-swish, toward a biology cut from nature with a dull blade. Embossed participants seem to reach through the cover.

Christine dedicates the book to “Victory.” Each necrosis of a poem sparkles in her enemies’ wounds. Candy karat limos, prayed on posers, coffins full of candlelight—it is a Marilyn Minterian femininity decorated with codeine. This is the end of art for art’s take. The author’s sins will be rewarded again.

Modified ideal in miniature, the root of disease can work as a non-sequitur. Excerpted below, prepositions compete: “round” slaps its surplus on “over.” Both come ungoverned and over-governed within a sonnet that shot every couplet. “My tractor old timey little thing / little peasant bus, that’s my diamond ring”—smoldering friction.

As soon as the sun sets
and the dust settles on the road
soon as the crows stop buzzing over round my villa
soon as Morgellons symptoms
stop strangling my mother

In his essay “On Contradiction” Mao Ze Dong writes, “Without contradiction nothing would exist.” He refers to social classes, but this theory is also adapting ancient Chinese philosophy: a fusion of polarities, yin and yang, dark and light, male and female. “If there were a God, I’d pray that he hear me / and I pray he be a man,” Christine opines, not without irony. Opposite facets of a single thing must exist simultaneously for growth to occur. Mao refuses to believe in an art spat from the void, bearing, at least, results crafted from tradition, even if we’ll abuse him here to communicate with angels. The opposing worldview, Mao also notes, a timeless, metaphysical outlook, “regards all things in the universe . . . as eternally isolated from one another and immutable.” The speaker in Christine’s poem “pebble coffin” might agree:

On the internet
with roses and velvet
I’ll lay there
open casket
forever and ever

Christine understands decadence, degradation, and crime as occasions for glory. “I’d sip espresso / with an AK47 in my lap . . . Christian Violence, I’ll accept it.” And Christine is involved in a self-transfiguration, a self-realization. “What about me? Well, I had a perm in 1984.” Through non metered lines, Christine frees herself from self-deception, and is engaged in a dialectic of freedom. Immersing oneself in a book of poems, then, could be thought of as purposely drowning in the author’s ocean of their perfect subject. “Help me drown, drown my entire account,” she writes in one poem. In another: “Stay right here and watch my tractor / I’m gonna tie you up right after.”

With contemporary technique—poem as joke, poem as internet cheat code—Christine teases familiar pleasures. Nothing didactic, more a roving admonition. Her poem titled, “If I had a gun” is a follow-through jest: “You’d all be dead.” Aesthetic dimensions giggle freely. Another fun one-liner is “Parakeets”: “I’d buy 20 and shoot 19 just to test their loyalty.” Later: “Have you even learned to mewl yet . . . Does the road ever end when you’re the only one you know?”

AI might meme us back to life. Remember Big with Tom Hanks opening on a kid glued to his computer, standing in the evil witch’s cavern, surrounded by the carcasses of slain ice dwarfs? The cursor blinks green. Our hesitancy will cost us dearly.


David Kuhnlein