Clocking Out

To my knowledge, the following brief review is previously unpublished (or if it perhaps appeared in Woodnotes, I still need to find the review). On 7 February 2017, I found the handwritten text for this review on a yellow piece of lined notepaper folded into quarters, tucked into my copy of the book, dated “25 December 1996, Winnipeg, Manitoba.” Carlos Colón, later known as Haiku Elvis, died unexpectedly in October of 2016. See also “Remembering Carlos Colón.”

Clocking Out by Carlos Colón, Shreveport, Louisiana: Tragg Publications, 1996, 54 pages, 5½ by 8½ inches, paperback. $4.00 postpaid from the author at 185 Lynn Avenue, Shreveport, Louisiana 71105-3523. [no longer available]

A playful spirit pervades Carlos Colón’s Clocking Out. In between the serious moments are sparks of lightness, all keenly observed, playfully seen. About a dozen visual or “concrete” poems add whimsy to this collection where poems (mostly haiku) appear spaciously at one per page. Colón shows great stylistic range not only with visual creativity but with one-liners, three-liners, “compressed” poems such as “eyexambiguoushapes,” and one tanka. While the poet’s playfulness is enjoyable, the more conventional haiku and senryu particularly resonate with keen observation, wry irony, humour, and sharp images. One or two poems see too light (“the lovebirds / a gaggle / of giggles”), but most of Carlos Colón’s poems here are movingly serious without taking themselves too seriously.


                toweling off—
                the cold nose
                of a kitten


                emptying the classrooms a triple rainbow


The following selections, in the order they appear in Clocking Out, were not part of my 1996 review, but I include them here to show additional example poems, starting with the following concrete poem I first published in Woodnotes. I recall asking Carlos if the image might be reversed, to show the cat walking to the left instead of the right (I’m not sure why I suggested that). He said that such a change wouldn’t work, because then the shape of the cat’s tail wouldn’t match the shape of the question marks. He was completely right.


      ???
     ?   ?          /\ /\
          ?         (cat)
           catcatcatcat
           catcatcatcat
          a a        a a
         t   t      t   t


                somewhere
                on the Sgt.’s desk
                a “Missing Person” report


                zen concert—
                an air guitar
                slightly out of tune


                guiltripenance


                across the rice paper
                the teacher gently
                guides my hand
                                (for Marian Poe)


                taking over
                the editors mailbox:
                haikudzu


                harder to read—
                the faded paint
                on his “Work for Food” sign


                next day across town
                white sheets marching
                on the clothesline


                new translation—
                the farmer gestures
                with a rutabaga


                chained to the desk
                the shell
                of a ballpoint pen


                Labor Day—
                fixing the hole
                in my hammock


                sound of a penny
                dropped on a church pew—
                ripples in the walnut


                six k places i at t once t this e new n


                taking my glasses
                the optician disappears
                into the wallpaper


                pointing
                my way home
                the starfish