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Sara Veglahn
Another Random Heart
reviewed by
Sophie Sills
Letter Machine, 2009. Paperback, 36 pages, isbn X (isbn13: 9780981522708)

Diminished Perimeters


Sara Veglahn’s “Another Random Heart” is a faceted, lyrical meditation on the haunting corners of imagination and the stirrings of perception. The narrative pondering of nature, “Here, you can hear the wood breathing” traces the weight of what’s beyond the borders of landscape. Colors outstretch themselves into lingering delays, ruminations on movement. There is a hopeful anticipation of life beneath ordinary objects:


White, but blue (cobalt). They’ve got yellow ochre (eggs), they got burnt crimson (bread). Still, these are colors beyond the monochromatic. Still, veridian a glow of mold. What hides in the blazing shells? Beneath onion skin? Belonging to color, blending each blue- a sand motion moving to edges. Still, a movement beyond itself. The brush, it sweeps, right to right, left to left. Ready yes. Still yes.

Section 3

Her answer to anticipation, in this collection of poems is yes, asking the reader to advance their focus, their inquisitive eyes both reflexively and interrogatorily. The book opens in a room where disorder blossoms into it’s own particular life, “Scenes left on the cutting room floor flower into their own scenery.” This sentence prepares the reader for the microscopic insight into Veglahn’s surroundings and asks us to re-envision the narrative possibilities in our own:


In this scene, we gaze. In this scene, listen to insects. In another story, the ancient target moves backwards in frames created by your negative-cutter’s hands. As I was saying, come closer.”


Veglahn’s prose “envelops a microcosm of melody” in that it fingers the tangible, conjures the spiritual endowed in nests, goldfish and underwater currents. Veglahn hones in on the mysterious incantations of the daily with a tactile exploration of materiality and connectedness, “I have only my hands,” whereby “everything is a joining force.” It is an idea paralleled in both Eastern mysticism and modern physics, that particles, the fundamental elements of the world, are interconnected, dependent on one another and have no meaning as separate entities. Particularly in the passage below we see that something smaller than sub-atomics, closer knit than the “joining force” of energies adheres the random collage of constituent parts:


In postal abbreviations, in atomic numbers of chemical elements. In large hives. In the stone cities. In a swarm. She was in someone’s house, her voice in a microphone. It’s a state of affairs (the location). Walking rituals (a place to go). A stapled reminder embraced in string and everything on wheels, everything a joining force.


And these parts, which she observes with “aching eyes,” are abbreviated, categorized and separated from the whole by our organizing minds, our rituals and reminders. Veglahn also captures here the evanescent nature of the “framework,” an ability to see writhing movement in the beyond.


Her world is one where, like the water she often refers to, nothing is static, “arranged by my hands, hands are changing the arrangement.” She loses track of the days, “the beyond of them.” This “beyond” is the movement, “erratic and slippery” of “searching for fortunes that slipped down deep” beyond the observable. It is a world of fractional occurrences, particles ablaze:


From where you are, the lights are a tunnel I could slip into and stay. Let them glide away and glow on their own.


Just as language is inadequate to explain quantum physics, the beyond of subatomic polarities, Veglahn suggests that it can’t communicate the inherent suchness of perception. She re-evaluates the words we’ve imposed on the natural world:


See the illustration. It is likely I could catch them in my teeth. Breaking makes a more urgent view visible. I could go beyond water. The bridges, yes. Maybe I’ll come up from the well. The mastery of removal in a system of ridges and furrows spreading results a long way down involves investigation (the scene: marine). We’ve renamed the constellations, anything having to do with night and water and anything. The lake, a lake of shrill birds sliding along the perimeter. What to do is anoint the palms with oil, anoint the throat and forehead. What to do is drop the keys into the storm drain you couldn’t tell me there’s not an angle to this.


It is in the “mastery of removal,” in “breaking” the framework that perception becomes experiential. And when consecrating ourselves, we must remove our possession over “anything.” Like Rosmarie Waldrop’s “Love Like Pronouns,” Veglahn demonstrates her awareness of her environment in striking imagery, painting a startling engagement with the textuality of language.


The use of her title, “Another Random Heart” suggests that the arbitrary nature of the organ reputable for it’s preciousness does not present an occasion for admiration, but just a piece of the entire interdependent system. Ultimately, unable to separate the imposition of language from her attempt to inspect the suchness of objects, she sprinkles the poems with bits of her homespun anecdotes, “When I’ve already been asleep today it means I’ve already been angry with a machine.” These lend personality to what realistically can’t be objective, reminding us that we are inseparable from our minds. “We apologize for the bees and the way the fan rattles the window, but it is too quiet to sleep without noise.” Again, like modern physics advocates, there is only subjectivism.


Rarely, does her rugged approach to investigation find it’s sentimental other half in these pages. In the only place where the word “heart” appears in the book, we find a searching in the brokenness for meaning. At this point she diverges most pronouncedly from impartial observation, demanding humanness be understood as part of documentation:


A fortunate prize these notions. They want the document in their hands. They want proof of their involvement. Try to understand: just like the sharp flashes before my eyes (blue), I balanced on the ridgepole. I wanted to move inside the frame you had created, my mangled corpse of a heart taken to the cobbler (heart as shoe).


Veglahn uses pedestrian analogies to reintroduce us to the heart, the heart as part of a disturbed machine. This fundamental need, her “notions” begging for evidence of their existence, reminds us of her struggle for balance, being “inside the frame” while she attempts to demolish it.


In her destruction-as-transcendence, Veglahn rearranges the light, expounding on the prismatic nature of her observations:


To move beyond day for night, lights must be arranged properly, but nothing can determine another’s transparent and flammable stare.


Imagination webs together the materiality of environment. The “night and water and anything” becomes a unified scene. It is this stare that lends the reader insight into her captivating investigations of the passage of light through the “movable pieces” around us.

Sophie Sills

Sophie Sills

Sophie Sills recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Mills College and relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA where she pursues teaching and writing poetry.

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