080.1: Liam O'Brien:: Brighton, 1923. Sea-Monster & The Proposal & Hospital Country
3 October 2011
In this triptych by Liam O’Brien, one is pressed to remember Ovid’s Metamorphoses—each beautiful or tragic tale of flight, fancy, pursuit, and transformation. In “Brighton, 1923. Sea-Monster” we first see a game of “boys-will-be-boys” choking each other that unfolds a mermaid like, “ungainly woman: legs joined,/breasts like limbs, mouth thick. Crowned/ with fleshy bull kelp.” Transformation and witness are at the heart of these poems. Always, the speaker invokes another (brother and lover in each) in order to perpetuate the narrative. The backdrops are tragic and beautiful, where in “The Proposal” the speaker’s father is a recrudescent Icarus, who doesn’t fly to the sun, but “foolish into a cherry tree.” There is no moral of this parable to avoid staring into the bright light of day. There is no moral or didacticism whatsoever. Instead, the father falls from the tree and is humbled before, presumably, the mother-to-be, where he delivers a proposal of matrimony, again presumably. Presumption is a frequent stance that the reader of O’Brien’s work must take because his narratives are beautifully garbed in mystery and intrigue. They are emotionally heavy, without giving too much information that would undo their splendor and that is their gift.