Alienation because We Fail to Observe | Review of “dead man’s float” by Derk Wynand (2001) Brick Books


“Patience” and “Observation” are skills that are lacking in today’s society. And are we losing something within us when we don’t practice those skills? Are we alienating ourselves into dark corners when we fail to watch and consider the world around us? That is the impression one can get when one reads dead man’s float by Derk Wynand.

Pelican (excerpt) Page 14

Icon of patience, whether up

in the air or bobbing down

on the swell: we learn from you

even if you make no claims

to be a teacher. What’s to learn?

The air supports the unlikely balance

of your beak, belly and wings,

and when the surface of the water

flashes with frantic perch or bream,

you fold up and drop to claim your reward.

Then, beak and belly full, you cork

once more on calmer water,

with a childlike or a monkish grin.

It is a joy to get lost in the descriptions Wynand  uses for things we would take for granted here. He describes things like birds or the use of words that we would never take the time to consider on our own. A complex read at times but one that is worthwhile.

Spider (Page 28)

The one who pays me visits every five minutes

or so, without checking ahead (having no phone

or to me comprehensible communication system),

also upsets whatever osmotic or gravitational force

that makes the condensation adhere to the beer can

beside my journal, until only seconds ago dry and

spiderless. I don’t know if he or she is spider enough

to spin webs like its prototype, to go away and pick

on someone more his own size, or if his bite is

(will be) worse than that of the mosquitoes we dread

for the dreams they deliver, dengue fever, malarial

hallucinations. His poison, at least, is almost

entirely of his own making, leaving a small doubt

about and a little faith in the lord and mistress

of creation, while the two of us sit here, or perch

proverbially spring-like, and spin our thoughts,

out along the invisible line that time is, passing.

Wynand has filled this book with complex observations and feelings. It was a joy to ponder the thoughts he came across with one by one. This is one of those books one needs to sit with in a quiet corner and carefully consider each well-crafted phrase.

Golden Age, Maybe Sepia (Page 45)

The folks in which other folks

might take an interest, or show –

eyes wider, suddenly head turned

without violence to accommodate

every sidelong glance. In the photo,

at least, they always seem to put on

a pretty good act, convincing – whom?

They come into the corner store, gather

around the wood stove everyone still

half-remembers. It’s winter, of course –

heart and body need nothing so much

as warmth. Yes, the age is forever wanting

to be golden, plain folks not content just

to sit around a stove when they could be

dancing in a circle around more ancient fire,

circle and fire and a song composed

to fit in – these the adequate magic

that allows “plain folks” to rise out

of themselves and slip into better roles.

And look at them now, talking their heads off,

while we only look at the photos and strain

to hear, nodding light-headed, all light, all dark,

and all that comes between.

dead man’s float by Derk Wynand is an interesting collection of thoughts and observations. A great read to ponder and consider over and over again.


Link to Brick Books page for dead man’s float

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