Poetry spotlight (revival)/#4: Questions for Godzilla by Paul Guest

It seems fitting to end my blog procrastination with the revival of an old idea: poem of the week. I originally did this as a mini month-long project, the goal was to read more poetry and share those experiences with a larger community (via this blog). It was a great month but when the month was over, like with any 30 day challenge, I found myself falling back into my old ways.

Fishouse_anthoA few months later I took my EDU Methods class and found my recent poetry project extremely helpful when it came to creating my poetry unit plan. It was reminder that, since English and Secondary Education are my practice, it only makes sense to practice them. I admit that recently I haven’t read much poetry but I’ve been listening to the CD that came with the contemporary poetry anthology, From The Fishouse (one of the books for my old Intro to Lit course). Unlike other anthologies From the Fishouse is ripe with writers who only have 1-2 books published. Additionally, they have a website, which is a self-described “audio archive of emerging poets.”

There’s something great about listening to poetry as an audiobook, after all, poetry is deeply rooted in an oral tradition. And as I fill my walks on campus with the words of various poets, there is one poem I keep returning to (for reasons I will attempt to describe in this blog post): 

Questions for Godzilla
by Paul Guest

What of the atom’s split heart we made
for you and the godly flash-bang wrath,
the anguished song, the clawed gait,
the zipper by which one of us slips into
and puts you on, your death we dangle
like a carrot, your stunted son mewling
always, your ragged arch foes,
your bed in rock, in magma, in thick sea slime,
our fascination still, our morbid heart,
our scattering like leaves, our blood
that once was horrible, a Technicolor ichor,
what of the glowing spine,
what of the toy stings of stock footage flames,
what of the jets you swatted dead
from the air with unmistakable joy,
you of the plastic-leather, pebbled Pleistocene flesh,
you of the palsied fury, you
of the put-upon by dissemblers and disturbers,
you, what of the life burned
so cheaply into celluloid we are charmed,
what of autumn, what of the earth
we took you from, what of the sky’s wounded throb,
the sallow child darkened
in your shadow, what of those thousand fates
cut in coiling ribbons
to the floor, what of the heaven they hoped on
that glowed like your breath,
that sang only before you came,
that fell quiet like a feather,
what of the shouted orders,
the dread retreat, the fall of a world built to scale,
what is pain to you?

This entire poem is one sentence. I found this very effective because it made me get lost inside this poem: overwhelming the reader in the best way–a way that demands to be reread again and again. I’m a sucker for alliteration so I loved the flow of this poem: “you of the plastic-leather, pebbled Pleistocene flesh.”

This poem demanded my attention because it’s such a strange and novel topic. A good poem knows how to do “the same differently” but it’s always refreshing to get something that’s just different. This poem isn’t about love, or the moon, or ornithology, or the changing seasons; it is straight forward and bizarre: Questions for Godzilla.

I really appreciate that this poem addresses the artifice that is Godzilla (as he was “constructed” by man):”What of […]/ the zipper by which one of us slips into/and puts you on,”. And there is something hauntingly beautiful about “the fall of a world built to scale”. Lastly, I really love how all of this poem was building up to one final, short, powerful question (so much so that it gets its own line). And it leaves me wondering, not just about Godzilla’s answer but my own…

“what is pain to you?”


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