My Imaginary Cock Rests on a Cushion of Benjamins

Sprung, by Laura Madeline Wiseman. San Francisco Bay Press, 2012. $14.99, 100 pages.

Drug-free stamina impresses all genders and ages. Take, for example, Rocky Balboa preparing to box Ivan Drago. Using Siberian tool shed supplies, Rocky fulfills his cardio overnight. Rocky wakes early to sprint in blizzard conditions. Rocky performs pull-ups on dead tree branches. Meanwhile, Ivan broods upon a treadmill, recalling bullies who used to call him St. Drogo, both misspelling his given name and comparing it to the patron of ugliness. Diagnostic suction cups stick to Drago’s head. His endocrine system’s on display for all to see. We’re pretty sure Ivan’s pumped with some off-brand anabolic maroon liquid before the bout. But we also know Rocky will win because the movie is titled Rocky followed by the Roman numeral IV.

Laura Madeline Wiseman’s latest collection Sprung is poetry of such natural endurance and strategy. The book is comprised of 41 poems that offer us an ever-present, masculine anti-hero: the penis. Yes, an imaginary speaking cock character attaches to each poem, beginning to end. Many of the poems are preceded with knee-slapping, cock-related historical epigraphs. Was it George Stephenson, the original train whistle proponent, who famously blurted What a good idea!, or somebody more futuristic? To allow a sex organ one doesn’t possess to serve as an interactive travel companion beats the living hell out of both Balboa and Drago. Wiseman allows her imaginary member to perform feats of jest, fantasy, suspense, mendacity, surprise, and entertainment at every turn:

At the Sheldon Art Museum my imaginary cock stops agog
before the marble phallus in the hall.

—from “Another Princess X”

The fire doesn’t look real, says my imaginary cock.
Atop a wall of black gradient, the Catalina Mountains
blaze with tips of embers in volcanic red. The wildfires
flicker in the Sonora night glinting in hot silence.
It’s real, I say.

—from “Real or Imaginary”

My ex-girlfriend visits for New Year’s Eve.
All night I accidentally touch her neck,
Lean into her at a party, hold her eyes too long.
My cock punches holes in the drywall.

—from “Rule the Roost”

Concept is too often an artistic trap. No ideas but in things. Maybe George Stephenson spoke that too, but his whistle was blowing so hard nobody heard him. Man wouldn’t trust just anybody to subject an imaginary cock to different situations (grocery and road trips, psychotherapy, vampirism, Halloween, the common cold sick-day, a fireworks display, etc.) Wiseman’s collection gives her cock carte blanche, and that’s ultimately what makes Sprung worthy of our attention. She allows emotions, reactions, and believable dialogue to bounce off the character and vice-versa. It’s a theoretical symbiotic relationship, tragic perhaps, though we never feel sad. In fact, in the history of our two sexes (matched only by the ancient Roman Tetrarchy period) the cock’s never been treated this kind. It’s the eye of the tiger.

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