A bit of what we expect and a shard of something different from America’s Queen of Flash, Kim Chinquee. Found at Corium. Corium is a lively mag and has one of those names–sort of a lit mag trope at this point–where you go, “What in the hell is a Corium?” But I digress.
Choo and Rumble
Another train ride, and here I am with your goddamn strawberry lotion. At first it was fun to pick things out on our excursions to Chicago.
But after a couple times, I got tired of your places, me sitting on a stool while you tried on blazers. I kept telling you it all looked good. I just wanted to get out of there.
The train is loaded and some people are snoring. Some are talking on their cell phones. Some people look dead. I’m not sure where I am, except wondering.
About you. Maybe by now, dissolved in your piano, occupied by the sound of a tic. Though you’d say it was tac. If I told you that, you’d laugh and remind me how I know you.
It has been months. Or maybe it’s been years now. My leaving, the constant drum of the train. No matter what you say, I bet you don’t cry when I leave there.
It’s just an Amtrak. We have to let the real trains pass before we can go anywhere.
Kim Chinquee is a fine example of voice. She pretty much writes in her way (minimalist, direct tone, very few lyrical bells and whistles, a sort of purposeful vagueness at times that often represents a detached narrator. A detached narrator. A detachment.)
So what’s a bit different here?
Not the narrator. This is indeed the classic Chinquee narrator, drifting a bit, walled-off, always this space between the speaker and the events, as if always an observer versus a participant. Chinquee narrators often seem like they are as shocked as anyone by the role they are playing in the text. By the situation/life conundrum.
Not the movement. Very often, a Chinquee flash moves, running, shifting, to somewhere, away from somewhere. Change. Transitions can be subtle, can be huge, HINGE on something. Chinquee will often write that HINGE.
But other things do differ. Let’s see:
Chinquee routinely goes with something simple, a noun, a place name, a hint of context, but little word-play. Choo and Rumble, with its onomatopoeic tendencies, with its focus on feel and sound, is not a traditional Chinquee title. But it’s a strong title. It is odd. Often odd titles make you look, which is one role (of many) of a title.
2. Opening line.
You’ll read a lot of Chinquee before you see a GD dropped in her opening. How does it work here? Well, coming off the tone of the title, it jars. As a modifier for strawberry lotion, it jars. It also represents a narrator who is done fucking around. It establishes. “Another train ride…” Another day, getting moved, in flux, pushed around. The line provides a lot of context. A lot of feel. It winds the text up, like a tight spring.
3. Line Breaks.
There’s a strong emphasis on enjambment here, how the line is cut, how white space presents a thing. I’ve seen it done in other Chinquee flashes, but this text almost wants to be a poem. The text is thinking about the possibilities of the line.
4. Controlling Metaphor.
Again, we’ve seen this from Chinquee. She usually has something (and it IS often a thing) to ground and focus the flash, but here it’s a bit more present, the train (or, really trains). Again, a bit more obviously diving into techniques of poetry. The fade-out metaphor, the comment on the metaphor.
As a huge fan of flash and certainly of Kim Chinquee, I find it interesting to see variations and nuances on her signature style. It shows not just growth, but keen thought about flash, as process and product. All of this technique makes me the reader more active. That’s what we’re trying for in flash. That’s what powers the genre. It’s fun to see Chinquee’s continued grace and skill on the page, and something further to watch for in the future.