What Urge Will Save Us? is the eponymous question at the center of Alina Pleskova’s chapbook poses. Around it swirl other questions, as the poet meanders and plucks meaning from mundanity like a bird building its nest of wants, turning pieces of its existence over and over. In her nest, there sits: one half rolled joint, a worn deck of Tarot cards, a Russian tea cozy, a bottle of two-buck-chuck, a well-loved Tom Waits record, a pair of favorite leggings, and a book of proverbs tied with a velvet sash. This is Alina Pleskova’s What Urge Will Save Us? in an admittedly paltry nutshell—if that nutshell also happened to be made of subway rides and the edges of sexual exploration &/or empowerment &/or disillusionment, which are really just sides of a preposterous three-sided die, Alina shows us. “every kink indulged until / fringe turned its own vanilla”, she writes in Magpie, posing the question, “what’s left to want if the door / is always left unlatched?” What now? What next? Why this?
Alina’s poetry is like an old friend with whom you’ve sort of lost touch but then you see her on some random Wednesday and she sits with you in a park and you say something quippy and something casually profound and smoke a joint and laugh and compare insoles and it’s like no time has passed at all. By which I mean her verse is an intimate conversation you’re automatically tuned for. The kind of whispered whatevers that makes you lean in and listen not from the sympathetic nervous system, but from somewhere deeper and far more tender. Vivid details dropped like breadcrumbs of a rich and textured existence you find yourself wanting to know. Pleskova writes, in Wonder Wheel, citing Rilke, “if no feeling’s final / I’ll pick a point to steady myself / call it horizon or / the simulacram”. This is not merely profundity, it’s necessity. As the poet swims in ambiguity, she gives us anchor points: a favorite strain of weed, a piece of furniture, sage ash flung about like spiritual dust. In this, we see as the poet sees: simultaneously, impossibly, aware of abstract thought with feet firmly planted to the moment. This is a present we receive from a gifted poet.
Woven into What Urge Will Save Us? like a tangled scarf blown about on the banks of the Volga is another question, Immigrant Question, a what question of culture directed firmly inward. Like all the pieces of the self—the sex self, the friend self—the cultural self wants to be examined. Indeed, Cyrillic text appears the work and acts as a visual wormhole to another place that resides, perhaps, in the poet herself. “& I’m trying to remember which / where I’m in now / Hang back in a mother tongue haze / shaping Cyrillic aloud”, Alina writes in Wonder Wheel. There is an increase in tenderness in these moments—not precisely nostalgia but transportation to a child state, to the wonderment that it comes with: feeling unfettered from adult ideation. “say останься со мной”, she writes. Stay with me. Innocent and tenderhearted. By contrast: “Bleak humor suits / my Soviet blood”, the mental nudge eastward in Saturn Return.
What Urge Will Save Us? is all the things: satirical self-care, growled love note, late-night stroll through the streets of Philly—traversed by a nimble mind seeking fresh ways of interpreting the orbits humans seem to travel in spite of themselves. Pleskova is the perfect tour guide. I urge you to accept her invitation. As Alina writes, in Q Train Poem, “Or as Tom Waits put it, who you / wanna go in the woods with”. Raise your hand. Enter the woods with her. I promise you will return with a light cupped in your palms.