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To my knowledge, the following brief review is previously unpublished (or if it perhaps appeared in Woodnotes, I still need to find the review).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)
          a a        a a
         t   t      t   t

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

                zen concert—
                an air guitar
                slightly out of tune


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

                taking over
                the editors mailbox:

                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

                my way home
                the starfish