ManiIn this beautifully produced collection of prose poems and vignettes, Desmond Kon amazes and enchants the reader with his usual dexterity of thought and language. Here, in extraordinary, surreal settings, we find ourselves having a ‘dialogue with the juniper shrub’ while a dugong is ‘mistaken for a mermaid in the fog’ and a straight line on a white wall turns out to be de Chirico ‘hiding in his own silhouette.’ This is a lyrical, bitter-sweet realm as well, slight as ‘a spray of allegory in the dried out tobacco leaves’, a place where ‘even the small teacups have lost their chestnut and clover-tree cities to become one unremitting saffron’.

There is a great deal of subtle humour in these pieces where ‘no one is levitating… although they all want to.’ The reader may be baffled by koans and questions and questions behind questions but so too is the archivist, a persona in the first section, who simply nods and keeps quiet in the face of complexities, knowing that ‘keeping silence to such answers connotes understanding  or at least acknowledgement or, quietly, simply lack thereof.’ This is the same bewildered archivist who sucks on a lollipop ‘waiting for the treacle to dissolve into bubblegum he can later stick onto the back of a park bench.’

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