For conscious, conscious attention to word choice, and for those words’ rich, sinuous, patent, pointed texture, this might be poetry; it’s flash fiction for its disinterest in the line. It affects as a mutant should. Read the phrases aloud for the mouthfeel of marbles (‘Sheboygan to the shore of Lake Michigan’) and then of caltrops (‘Brother Eamon of Racine Wisconsin,’ ‘hockled his body crumpled wetly’). I am unseated by the invention. Let’s go on.
Much of this invention is subtle, and would prefer to be absorbed subconsciously—as if its art were incidental, not the work of industry. Saavedra’s omission of the comma between ‘Racine’ and ‘Wisconsin’ means we’re shorted the marker that separates content from demi-content: that makes, on the one hand, the humanity of Brother Eamon lord over the environs of Racine, Wisconsin, and also Wisconsin the thing that contains smaller Racine. If you’ve read Racine, this omission also makes you want a lover named ‘Racine Wisconsin’—perhaps he’s born with the diamond fury to translate, at one sitting, Andromaque. This want is repeated, to similar jarring effect, in ‘When the rope hockled his body crumpled wetly’ (to say nothing of the ebullient, if cruel, noun-to-verb torquing that is ‘hockled’) and sensed as a thwarting by the ‘and’ in the final clause of the piece.
Where will you find such valenced assonance, I wonder. ‘Hanged,’ ‘naked’; ‘traveling,’ ‘family’; ‘thrumming,’ ‘tuning’; ‘plains,’ ‘pleased’; ‘broken,’ ‘steering,’ ‘wheel.’ O, there is joy in music here, and a tuning fork is the proper regnant image, as the ‘ford’ which holds the body of Brother Eamon becomes the thing he drives to rodeo, and ‘the wild frothing of dust’ kicked up by bulls becomes a pre-funereal balm for the man, ‘collapse[d] broken on the steering wheel.’ How the rodeo devastated our Eamon.
If we take the title as evidence, it’s the riding did it. Priapus, minor god of fertility in the Greek canon, also of bees (note our ‘swarm’), fruit plants, gardens—burdened with a perpetually erect member. Likely the most powerful achievement of “From the Temple Priapus” is that its delicate architecture builds boldly about Priapus, an otherwise comic figure. His acolyte, Eamon, so moved by the tiniest digits, those ‘toes abducted inside . . . boots,’ ‘a man’s thighs tensed over the back of an animal,’ all the quiet and unquiet ‘stampede and collapse’—hasn’t he succeeded in helping us understand, perhaps for the first time, the bloat at the core of every cry that ends ‘I want! I want!’?
Now, I charge you: find a work to match the carpenter’s brilliance of Saavedra’s vignette the rest of 2015.