The Shoulder Review by Maurice Riordan – A Bad Look in the Mirror | Poetry

MAurice Riordan, in one of his songs, describes the “shoulder tap” as a practical joke. I didn’t know what this meant until YouTube pointed it out to me – a little tap on the shoulder makes the person who is being tapped leave, they look up and see that no one is there. The memory itself is the shoulder blade of this collection: the past steals without warning the frequent allocation of requests for analysis. In the headliner, Riordan remembers a childhood friend – now dead – who plays this sad joke on him. This is Riordan’s fifth collection in an illustrious career and is deeply rooted in the past: he was born in County Cork and his rural Irish roots are still evident.

In Madame Bovary, a single memory recalls her youth, and what is most appealing is the lack of meaning in the poem, a written message that comes, if you are lucky, with maturity. Riordan’s abusive father went on a drinking spree or, in Irish, a “box” (I had to look it up). But the most important thing here is the fading sound of Madame Bovary on the windshield. It is like a promise: one thinks that Riordan chose the Flaubert before launching himself on the literary life.
How do you think about where you see yourself in life? In the fascinating Hamartia (literally: the failure that leads to a hero’s downfall), an anonymous woman turns Riordan into criticizing his work. He criticizes its “localization” and “Those litanies of place names.” And he went down from there:

And besides, you’re stuck in a wormhole.
Company names. Names. Dead friends.
You can drink it in a straight pint glass.
You can sleep on pure white sheets.
You boil pig’s feet and eat the golden wonders in their skin.
There’s nothing you want unless you’ve had it for months.

The music of the past is a puzzle with a psychological irony.

His fingers poked my ribs.
Now, it seems like I’m kind of dead.
You’re a thrower, a quisling, a swipe left, aaa
I nod again. Everything he tells me.

Don’t worry, Riordan’s project, in part, is to see what the “selfie” is, in a small way, which may be the style of his 60 years, in an age where he has passed the posing. He was aided by a dextrous mind and a gift for self-deprecation. In The Narcissist, he writes about his inner self-image before he had that:

Every time I catch a glimpse, in a hotel or a new bedroom,
it came as if I was surprised in the presence of a man,
who is flower and not good.

You can also page with a fingerprint scanner here. You might ask: who cares? But this is to miss the point. Riordan’s exploration of what it means to find yourself in one person and no other is universal. And there are some great songs on other topics: the storm and its fall, a dark puzzle, another erotic play. Monopoly. But the best thing about the experience is its very ambiguity. The Changeling is a very solid part of the complex:

I think you can hide in galleries and other cities.
in the bars during the day, in the swimming pool.
There are certain hours when you can hold a loved one low.

That “loosely tethered” is perfect. Riordan is a wonderful gardener of characters, packing the unexpected into a single garden and rising above her own doubts.

Madame Bovary

I follow the old man to Clonmult.
It is the coat on the horse, his head
in the hawthorn cloud, taking him to the stud.
I was in the back of the Morris, standing
and begin, with Madame Bovary
opened on the dashboard.

Nance, the bride, my little sister, hand-
fed with a Pyrex bottle
and the beautiful cotton that I did not surrender.
On the wall, a black horse mounted
on his back, using his sword
like a length of plastic hosepipe.

Now that it’s over, we switch roles –
I’m Nance belt for home,
since my father went to the East
on his journey, over the wall,
Madame Bovary in Chapter Twelve,
yellow under the windshield.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: