The Invisible Bride is a strange and penetrating book. Questing and questioning, full of wonder and doubt, it draws you in and down. There is no settling, but a constant distance that beckons; once reached you could settle--if only to find "one more good place to enjoy a meal, to have someone tell [you] a story." The action takes place somewhere between the river and the airport. The characters take shape, somewhere between the archetype and the unremarkable. They are phantasmata who are simultaneously our contemporaries, our familiars. Boundaries are difficult to pinpoint for they are cloudlike. This is a journey the reader is compelled to take, along with the boys of the poem who "carried rocks back and forth in the frost, then came home and made some sleep." The overall sensation is of being left heavy and weightless. This is not a common condition.
The Invisible Bride is a record of what is not remembered and what may have never happened. Composed of six linking chapters, poems are set into them, none of which are in line except as an unscored melody. The enigmatic speaker informs us that he is "making a river to build a bridge across." He is the issue of any age, of unknown origin, "a descendent of birds"; also "unapologetically ill and in [his] early eighties." Also the survivor of "a twin [who] died at birth. The clouds weighed ten ounces." He owns a blind dog. He camps in the woods with Agnes, a philosophical force who waits tables at the airport and "explains [his] reason for being." Agnes leaves him. She had to go.
And though the work is highly referential (including an odd collection of known names, Bob Dylan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bette Davis, Ted Williams, et al.), an essential part of it remains folded from view. Yet The Invisible Bride is susceptible to moods, obstacles, weather; replete with children, dogs, phones, evergreens, even a pet chicken. We almost recognize our locus on the sphere. We almost remember our "user name."
There is much ado about beards and bridges, night and snow, about the distance of plums one from another. There is much counting, measuring, a little praying and howling. The Invisible Bride remains lovely and illusory. The narrative is submerged in the telling. Agnes speaks at times through a machine. The primary speaker becomes a saint. Connections are formed and dissolved. "It's getting cold. Someone has made a fire. A flame's identity depends upon what it burns--identity is like a swan, for it comes and goes as it pleases."
All of this takes place in the twenty-fifth hour, "The hour of blood-going-dry in the cattle. The hour of the singular valley." It reads as a very attentive, soulful dream. The reader may require special binoculars.
Did I say it was beautifully executed?
Tony Tost was the winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman Award for his first collection of poems, The Invisible Bride (Louisiana State University Press, 2004). C. D. Wright was the judge for the award.