Essay by Z.H. Gill

Mom and Son Passing a Weed Pen Back and Forth While Watching a French Movie on the Hotel TV

a review of Morgenrede’s Abuser

This is—or shall be—a review/essay upon the subject of Abuser, the brilliant, maddening, and ultimately unclassifiable new book of poetry and prose by the pinball-playing provocateur Morgenrede (aka C. Morgenrede aka ___ ___) from the great Pig Roast Publishing.

But first: I’d like to talk about my high school newspaper teacher; I am told he died today. I will not name him. I do not wish to disturb his family any further. And also, let me get this straight, just because I’m opening my ramblings on an artwork entitled Abuser doesn’t mean I’m saying my teacher was one. Get that out of your stupid head right now. On the Z.H. Abuser/Saint Patented Axis he was far closer to Saint.”

I’m less certain on the taxonomy of the figures prominent in Morgenrede’s work. Morgenrede remembers the dead throughout—both the dead-dead and the not-dead dead—and does so unsparingly. But savage is not the right word to describe Abusers contents, at least not consistently, for there is too much music within, blood-flooded though it may be. The great-with-a-capital-G writer Adam Johnson edited this volume (he makes a cameo appearance within, as well), and his influence oozes out from it. But there is marked difference in affect here from, say, Johnson’s sublime book of poems Covered In Sharpie and Suing for Peace (out earlier this year, also from Pig Roast Publishing—which is now consistently releasing some of the most challenging, breathtaking books available in print today [see also: Lisa Carver]). I knew writing reviews would be hard. I’m a know-it-when-I-see-it kind of cat. (I actually wrote a few book reviews for my high school’s newspaper—I remember most clearly doing so for the Karen Russell collection Vampires In the Lemon Grove [I refuse to look at it, but you can here—things were easier then, my brain hadn’t broken fully at that point.) Let’s try: because if Johnson is sculpting, Morgenrede is singing or—dare I say it!—playing.

Okay. Probably at the portion of the review now where I need to start citing the text. Dare I read closely? Don’t worry, I won’t. But, so you can get a sense of Morgenrede’s rhythms snd tones, here’s an extract that called out to me instantly: …When we finish up we sit in the car looking at trucks flying by the sun-up horizon, my friend taps me and I turn to see a guy standing next to his truck with a flat tire, the guy only has one leg, I lean over and tell my friend, remember when I hit that veteran with one leg, I reversed in a parking lot and tapped his bumper, I felt like such an asshole, I mean how do you hit a guy who doesn’t even have two legs, I’m glad he was cool about it though, he didn’t give a fuck, he probably wishes I killed him or something, I wonder if that guy over there in the parking lot wishes he was dead, I wonder where he served and for how long, I wonder what he thinks about himself, maybe he wishes he could be an actual automobile, one with replaceable parts, a thing that can be rebuilt from the ground up: an interchangeable, mindless, toothless, heartless killing machine;’ — all this immediately following a gorgeous, shimmery passage on feeding mutilated catfish by Mississippi moonlight. For there are many Morgenrede’s: the Southern de Bergerac, the labyrinth-keeper, the sado-historian, the fiery millenarian.

I get the impression that Morgenrede could write a book-length work on what he sees looking out from his bedroom window and I’d be entirely enthralled reading it. I’m guessing he’d see some animals peeling each other’s skin off. And maybe he’d spot a neighbor ruffling through his trash and wonder all about them. And then maybe he’d play with his butthole. Anything goes, is what I’m saying—but that’s not a negative: there’s great control and a genuine flesh-level curiosity in Abuser, two traits I find sorely lacking in so many similarly-billed transgressive texts. Maybe that’s why I could hear so much music through all my wincing. Morgenrede is a humanist. Please don’t hate me for saying so! But he’s a humanist who cannot shy away from when his fellow-humans start losing their body parts. (As he should be. We all should be.)

So: you probably have little idea what this book is actually about. Allow me to get blurbable for a moment, then: Abuser is a catalog of violent memories and tender reminisces, exurban poetry and 3AM ramblings, intrusive thoughts and interrupting voices of all sorts. Some of its entitled sections include The Truth About 9/11,” Staring into the Garbage Disposal with Vomit Hanging from Your Nose,” and Picking Fudge in Uranus, Missouri.” But for all his menace and scatology, Morgenrede’s peachy vision and crystal-clear singsong are never once diminished. I swallowed this book whole. And you should, too.

Z.H. Gill

Twitter: @BurialMagazine

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