Watch Aaron Kreuter Read from Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by Aaron Kreuter, from his 2022 collection Shifting Baseline Syndrome.
A glass of water, half full or half empty. Your childhood, full of
poison. A street of milk-chocolate brown puddles after an overnight rainfall
nobody saw or heard, a minefield. A sunshower. A rainstorm. A
torrential downpour. Tidal waves that heard what you said about them.
All the murdered lakes back for horror-movie-style revenge. (Every toilet
bowl you pass spooks you into recoil, a porcelain mouth of deranged
fangs.) The lake and river systems you once spent happy summers
paddling now magma burning with the shrieks of your loved ones. The
thirst of a billion throats, heaving oceans of salty fear. Comets of ice slam
into the atmosphere, firework into liquid death. You dream nightmares of
each one of your hundred trillion cells, swampy nightclubs where every
dancing body is a pedophile a murderer a childhood enemy who knows
your sexual secrets, you wake up to discover the ice caps have melted your
bed afloat on a sea of knives you scream you scream your thirst a stovetop
burner levered full blast water knows no boundaries you scream water has
skin as soft as pudding as hard as toothache water has sense memory you
holler from the first spark of ‘huh, this is nice’ to the last bureaucrat dumping
the last load of poison into the last river – from salty womb to wet loam –
water’s been with us you stop the roar of rising tides drowning you out
the planet drowning you wish for two things one to swing a little further
from the sun all the water sucked up into glorious skyscrapes of ice two
to swing just a little closer close enough for it all to evaporate into steam
to puff into space leaving everything dry, flopping, crusted. The water
sloshes, slaps, spits, and you’re finally parched enough to gulp liquid rock.
In Shifting Baseline Syndrome, Aaron Kreuter asks the hard questions: will the Anthropocene have a laugh track? Is it okay to marry your eighteenth cousin? How different would the world look from outside the life-frame of the human? What is it like to have an acid trip in a portapotty? Is it the end . . . of Earth? Of capitalism? Of television?
Throughout Kreuter’s sophomore collection, the TV remote is never far.
Shifting Baseline Syndrome is both searching and searing, veering between satire and sincerity, history and prophecy, and human and non-human worlds. As these clash ecstatically with loathing—and with the end looming—Kreuter demonstrates why we’ll keep doing what we’ve always done: hoping, for once, that the series finale will be good.
Aaron Kreuter is the author of the short story collection You and Me, Belonging (2018) and the poetry collection Arguments for Lawn Chairs (2016). His writing has appeared in places such as Grain Magazine, The Puritan, The Temz Review, and The Rusty Toque. Kreuter lives in Toronto and is a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University. Shifting Baseline Syndrome is his second book of poems.