Andrea Fry's poetry collection, THE BOTTLE DIGGERS, is in the tradition of Joyce an assembly of voices, a cast of characters who tell stories. Sometimes these characters give their own testimony; sometimes they share someone else's story. Some poems recount simple moments; others tell longer tales. But for all of the variations, the storytelling is akin to a psychological or emotional digging, a cerebral parallel to the hunt for antique bottles described in the collection's titular poem. For the bottle diggers, to unearth even a fragment of a bottle is to salvage a story. An old dump ground then becomes a treasure trove of past voices that the diggers are compelled to discover. The bottle diggers have a shared trust that something of value is hidden there, that the voices that echo from the shards they encounter could easily be their own.
Away from the highway in the thick of leaves
we stumble on rubble, the foundation of a house.
We scan the field for its onetime dump,
for the subtle rise of hidden shapes, ground draped
like the top of a pie. We walk through ourselves,
search for bottles from another time, with boots and sticks
we loosen the dirt from glinting heels and collars
that stud the soil. Driven to find just one vessel intact,
we sink to our knees to free each glimmer.
Earth rises around us as if we, too, were broken glass
or sullied china cups with yellow stems prancing around
the rim. One by one we free each remnant and hold it up
to catch the sun. We keep digging, but never find
a bottle whole. So we name this place heartbreak dump.
We name this place always meeting ourselves.
We find the blob-top, cold and fat with emerald lip.
A tapered gin that leans like an amber mummy.
The bromo with a syrupy essence, sealed with scab of cork.
The punt mark’s seamless body, spilling down
to a jagged base, prized
for that fundamental scar.
Jenny Darsey said it was fact:
they nailed his feet and hands
to the tree.
Then some guy stabbed him
with a spear and blood gushed.
There was blood everywhere,
Jenny said. Like she was there.
Then she ran to kick the ball.
I held my breath.
When Jenny came back, her face
Then lowandbehoed, she said,
just like that, lowandbehoed,
He rose from the dead!
I gasped, then chomped down hard
on my sagging stick of red licorice.
It had found a brother,
a branch to stretch against.
Both were gray with black argyle but the branch’s
random scabs of bark fell short of pattern.
And the branch didn’t swell in slow motion
like its thicker twin,
as a twitching rodent bulge passed barge-like, expanding,
then deflating the diamond skin
in glacial time, the snake’s black head pointing,
like a finger in warning,
eyes dull with process
that would go on at a pace painful only to us.
We turned and looked away as in that dream
where you’re naked before a sea of eyes.
You cover yourself with both hands,
not godlike or dressed in fig leaf but
graceless, desperate to conceal.
And you run away squirming as people do
when they must escape, clutching their shame,
the only part of the dream that is ever real.