“Sherod Santos brilliantly negotiates the provinces of poetry and prose, of imagination and memoir.… As enigmatic as Borges, and beautiful in a way only Santos can be.” —David Baker
A poetic meditation, Square Inch Hours draws on elements from fiction, memoir, daybook, and reverie, piecing together moments in the aftermath of a breakdown. With adamant attentiveness, the speaker turns his focus to reality in its minute particulars: the palsied hand of a grocery clerk; copulating flies on a windowsill; a deep gouge, like a bullet hole, in his apartment door. The title Square Inch Hours expresses his urge to capture each moment, as in the square of a photograph. Through intense sensual perception, he begins to reconnect with the world.
"It takes just one unattended moment for an hour to pass," writes Santos (The Intricated Soul) in this collection of subtle, reflective prose poems. But in the moment attended, which could describe each text's narrative frame, one finds a microcosm. Sometimes Santos's scenes are emotionally charged: in one poem, for example, a couple close out the day after an argument in silence until "darkness cheeped like a tiny bird"; in another, Santos writes, "The hour of my mother's funeral I spent clearing out her overgrown flowerbeds." These moments, early in the book, give a savor of solitude to the collection, although most of the book is composed of mundane scenarios engaging in daily routines, observing strangers, or waiting at a table to be served. These diorama-like texts, which locate a range of human feelings in the sundry details of the everyday, are something of a contemporary Book of Disquiet; Pessoa, who Santos directly invokes, tends inward and toward moments of stillness as he speaks through a heteronym: "not as himself, but for himself." For his part, Santos offers a great deal of quotidian action, whether it's a passing moment or a single day.