The Poetry Box / 14 June 2002

Hannaford brought over his poetry box yesterday afternoon and, to paraphrase my father, when the doctors finally tell me I have a month to live, I’ll spend it with Hannaford and his poetry box because then it’ll feel like a year. The case of a Victrola, its innards removed and replaced with rotating wheels of words assembled from printing-press letters. He turns the crank, the words swing to and fro, hit an arrangement of electrodes in the rear, each block triggering a different recording of a man’s voice (strident, vociferous; this is Hannaford himself) speaking the word aloud, broadcast through a trebly speaker.

“Insane ritual of shadow,” the poetry box croaks, a drunkard being repeatedly socked in the gut. “Smile burn storm panther goddess,” it adds. “Fight the luscious heat.”

“Wonderful, or words to that effect*,” I say, my smile a curly brace.

“She’s just getting warmed up,” Hannaford says. “In a few hours I’ll oil up the tertiary gears and you’ll start hearing some seriously hot stuff.”

And it’s true, as the sun set (8:25 PM, absolutely unnatural) and we threw a third cork into the recycling bin, the poetry box got increasingly lewd, manipulate a purple apparatus or eat lick love your luscious warmth, and I got weepy like I always do when the sky turns black and I say aloud that I wish more than anything that he’d gotten his ex-wife to record the words because hearing this ersatz Hannaford speak the sweet nothings was really not what I wanted like at all. But if it’d been Dana’s voice captured in that Lament Configuration of his? Can you imagine, diary? Sweet and hoarse, an accent you feel compelled to imitate? Stitched together with laughter and supersonic sibilants? Would you like an orange-flavored popssssssicle, Josh?

And Hannaford gathers up his stuff and storms out, of course, and I can’t decide whether I always bring up Dana to get rid of him, or because I can’t help it.

Joshua Green Allen

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