Haunting Fractured Vision: Michael Bernstein on Zachary Bush’s The Silence of Sickness

The Silence of Sickness, Zachary C. Bush, Gold Wake Press

Zachary C. Bush’s The Silence of Sickness is a dark, haunting blend of dreamlike lyric and gritty, unsettling narrative. And the aforementioned balance strikes true at every turn.

While the book is comprised of discrete, individual pieces, there is a powerful, tonal unity to the text that makes it feel more like a single, extended series. The “tone” that I am describing is, for the most part, dark. However, Bush never lets his work become morose or savage in its examination of the fractured interpersonal relationships and incidents the pieces are often times describing. He, as each piece proves, seems to possess a shrewd sense of his craft, evident in both the construction and content of The Silence’s pieces.

While the pieces contained within the book are not at all uniform, Bush seems to operate chiefly in two modes. There are pieces (such as “All Hunger is Silent”) that take on a more conventionally poetic tone and structure:

Morning’s sky is colored with eleven shades of red light,
Leaking out from the lace of the lavender haze,
Staining all the dew of the treetops that border this stream

These pieces possess an eerie, quasi-surreal quality…think Pierre Reverdy, only several shades darker. Things decay, reality is disturbed, and questions refuse to be answered, leaving a sense of disquieted absence, as in “How This Man Breaks”:

Balled-up in bed, Silence addresses the man directly,
And though he can’t understand what’s being communicated.
The Man senses that he might already be dead. Frightened,
He tries to remember what his life was like before it was not, but
There is nothing besides the blurred image of an exploding beehive.

Bush is able to invoke this sort of gripping otherworldly-ness consistently throughout the collection, and it exists, perhaps, in its most concentrated form in the more directly poetic works. Again, in “[[[into this space]]]”:

I am slipping away_________

Where shadow run backwards
Screaming FIRE

That invisible light

Where moths suffocate
& shrivel by the thousands

At my feet

Others, such as “Transitions” offer a more directly narrative reading experience, while maintaining the aforementioned tone, as is the case in “There Will Be Ruins”:

Those woods were the reason that we had fled the Mansion. Slip. There we would search for all that Sleep had stolen from us.

It was hot. There was an invisible decay. There were flies and unanswered questions.

These miniature poetic tales exploring a world both damaged and fascinating. Their denizens including a man with fish for hands (“Interval [B]”) and a ominously butchered rag doll (“In The Abandoned Hours Of Morning”), bring to mind the haunting monstrosities of Rene Magritte paintings, their activities and very existence seeming possible only within the framework that Bush has created.

Bush’s third book is an obvious success. His keen command of literature’s more formidable forces, coupled with his haunting, fractured vision, provide us with a book that will not quickly melt away in our minds. A hit.


Michael Bernstein is the author of the chapbooks cinderbook (Gold Wake Press, 2009), the rot to light (Gold Wake Press, 2010), 8s (Scantily Clad Press, forthcoming 2010), imaginary grace (Recycled Karma Press, 2010) from “a heap of swords and mirrors” (Bedouin Books, forthcoming 2010), the transit illuminate (mud luscious press, forthcoming 2010), nanostars (greying ghost press, forthcoming 2010), and the Fire District (Differentia Press, forthcoming 2010), and Well (Splitleaves Press, forthcoming 2010) . His poems have appeared in magazines such as Puppy Flowers, milk, Moria, BlazeVOX, and New American Writing. He currently co-edits the online literary arts magazine Pinstripe Fedora. Michael lives and writes in Wisconsin.

One response to “Haunting Fractured Vision: Michael Bernstein on Zachary Bush’s The Silence of Sickness

  1. Pingback: Daughter of the Ring of Fire » Blog Archive » Not Quite a Book Review: The Silence of Sickness by Zachary C. Bush