Plan B Press
Reviewed by Janey Smith
Imagine gathering together to celebrate something small in a church—something that you will probably forget because you have TV—to find that you are not in a church, but an orgy, a really delicate orgy. Reading David Highsmith’s chapbook congregations is something like that. If you have a TV, you will probably watch it while holding congregations in your hands, but that probably won’t stop the book from seeping into your skin, through your fingertips, like acid or pot smoke or something.
Seriously, this little book will make you high. You will be watching Adult Swim and you will be like, “Oh shit! I’m high.” And then you will look at congregations, still in your hands, and you will stare out the windshield of your imagination and you will confirm it, “high.”
And then you will start reading it again. Or you might think, like I did, that this little chapbook would also be fun to read if you were reading it with a bunch of aliens from outer space determined to resurrect the dead to thwart nuclear annihilation—that is, if you were reading it with friends who liked to read.
For example, there’s this one poem—because none of the chunks of “poems” have titles (or are these stanzas? I don’t know, anyways)—that “begins” with the words “they, too” and what’s great about it is that it invokes a scene from a Ren & Stimpy cartoon where all these alligators are packed into a bus waving pennants and stuff and singing “happy, happy, joy, joy,” except the “poem” refers to crocodiles not alligators and it’s not really crocodiles that are on a bus, it’s people, and the people don’t seem to be singing so much as getting really drunk and there is something overtly inuring about the whole thing that makes me somewhat deferential to it—like I’m in church or something.
So, instead, I also read this other poem in the book. And this one is weirder. It’s called “midnight” and it must take place in Alaska or some place where there is lots of snow (like the North Pole) because the sun is still shining—even though it’s midnight! And then everything gets really creepy: blood is spilled (which I like), people eat their god (this is like me going down on my boyfriend), then the people kill this animal (this is like me going down on my boyfriend), except the poem makes me unsure if any of that stuff is true because it turns out that it’s this boy who is doing “all” the thinking in the “poem” for a second, and then the boy, himself, seems to not even know what’s happening (which is like me going down on my boyfriend).
Here is the other thing, real quick, I have to say about all these “poems” or “stanzas”: they slow things down. A lot. If you think your life is spinning out of control or if you are looking for a different approach to mitigate the effects of your antidepressant medication, or if you suspect that there may be something more to life than visits to McDonalds or Taco Bell or vegan restaurants or whatever, then I think you should maybe sit down somewhere quiet and, without looking around to see who’s watching you, just open up this little book and spend some time reading it, slowing things down so that you make sense of stuff, maybe even yourself, for a little while.
One more thing (listen closely): this little book is positioned in proximity to laughter. It’s a one inch equation that almost defies paradise, theory, and presence. It is a little book that leaves the fold of other little books and, inserting the sound of something like poetry—something, I think, that we have forgotten—comes very close to “here.”
The voices of it are fenced-in (really) with what will not be: a picture of “the oldest book,” or, at least, its scenery.