Thin Straw That I Suck Life Through
Providence: Melodeon Poetry Systems, 2000
In Thin Straw That I Suck Life Through Mary Burger turns a keen and sympathetic eye on all manner of things from the Unabomber to passersby and from love to familiar, but unplacable, tidbits of text. Ripped right from between the headlines, ample white space frames the thin lines of the work as though the writer is encouraging readers to gasp for air as they grapple with the material her thin straw has sucked up. The phenomena Thin Straw presents isn’t exactly phenomena lite – the text isn’t a fun romp filled with wacky pop culture references guaranteed to elicit hearty belly laughs. After all “bruises endured/ in fun” are rarely if ever fun. Thin Straw is sort of poetry’s answer to country music – there’s plenty of suffering and empathy, a smattering of narrative and a quirky optimism that seems a little unjustified.
The work is divided into episodes. We watch her ensemble, if somewhat abstract, cast as one might watch the episodes of a soap opera or serial drama. Only when you tune into Thin Straw, the characters are having existential crises along with the usual affairs, heartaches, amnesia, and human connections as fleeting as kisses, and, as in a serial drama, “the words weren’t important, but the telling was.” Of course that’s not exactly true because “description is part of how things come to be.” The chaotic world that Burger describes seems eerily familiar as it wanders along “through the narrow width of the ellipse/ the illusion of going forward/ towards an end or at least a future.” But the threads don’t come together, things don’t work out, the princess doesn’t marry the prince or even figure out who he is … it’s just one damn thing after another. As Burger moves us through this stream, we find ourselves joining her in a search for more air, and, thankfully, there seems always to be more – always just enough.
– Lauren Gudath