Havoc in Silence. Tiffany Morris. (Molten Molecular Minutiae, 2019) 38 pp. $6. https://mmminutiae.storenvy.com/products
Review by William Shaw
Havoc in Silence by Tiffany Morris is a thirty-poem sequence of apocalyptic visions, presented in a sparse and vivid style. Themes of environmental destruction, time, death, stillness, and inevitability mingle in disturbing yet oddly beautiful fragments of verse.
Uncanny juxtapositions pepper this chapbook, the breakdown of the world mirrored in spare, semantically mixed language. In “IX. hammer wives,” for example:
screams / stretch / skyward
seconds evaporate into
blood into trails into ice
spelled in footprint
d a m n a t i o n
[and] farm equipment
“XXIV. blood and gasoline,” meanwhile, presents a fragmented reality, in which bodily suffering bleeds into environmental degradation:
blood into mud
asphalt tar seeping
The chapbook is consistently disturbing in its portrayal of the end times, but it also has a strangely optimistic streak. Some poems lend an odd beauty to the apocalypse; “VI. rabbits and nooses” ends with the injunction:
close your red
eyes, hush — sunrise
is coming, sure as death,
sure as blooming.
While “VII. forbidden secrets” contains the intriguing instruction:
carry the empire into
fall. carry the promise
of stopped watches,
shattered screens, dead
batteries. carry silence
as if it was beautiful.
There is a sense that the empire will fall precisely because of its stopped watches; that the act of regimenting time into hours and minutes is what enables the creation of empires in the first place. This evokes the leftist literature on the imposition of clock time as a foundation of capitalism, and adds an interesting dimension to the already political topic of environmental destruction.
Morris’s bleak images and strong phrases are particularly well-suited to the haiku form. The title image comes from one of them, “XXIII. if these talls could walk”:
kings fall from towers.
memories of the future:
havoc in silence.
It’s a fitting summary of the chapbook’s themes; the failures of power; the blurring and fragmentation of time and space; our own strange distance from the end of the world. It may have been published in 2019, but Morris has written the perfect collection for 2020.
William Shaw is a writer and poet from Sheffield, England. His writing has appeared in Star*Line, Space & Time, Imperica, and Doctor Who Magazine. His first book, The Black Archive #42: The Rings of Akhaten, is available from Obverse Books. You can find him on Twitter @Will_S_7
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