Collaborative Poetry: Joel Gunderson and Mark Gotelli

Spoken poetry generated by Joel Gunderson 
Transcription and textual form crafted by Mark Gotelli



We had always thought of them as
Eternal Beings,
packing grandeur into our cold 
semantics. But it was really just light 
glancing off the water, or a near miss
when you crossed the street 
and turned back.

Could you have survived childhood without angels?
Even you, who don’t believe?
How could you have known that summer wildfires 
might be theirs? The collision of tectonic plates, theirs?
The volcano’s violent spasm, theirs?

I remember walking under ancient mango trees,
the cicadas singing in chorus. Their voices
so voluminous that all things were drowned.
A canopy of sound, a sensation so piercing and constant 
that no thought could emerge. The trembling leaves

in late afternoon. Resurrection songs, funeral songs, songs
of salvation, a single voice to choir. A sound so persistent that,
walking under the shade of the mangos, the only prayer 
that can be prayed 
is one of ending.

The perpetual light dimming at dusk.
Moments of salvation color-coded 
or filed away in alphabetical order.
Chronologies displaced
by levels of importance.

All these goddamn angels, and not
a single one of them ready 
to stop singing.  



They’re all dreaming they’re gonna bear the prophet. – Patti Smith 

I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. – Zachariah 13

It should have been easy to understand.
I mean, all of the pieces, while perhaps 
had always been so meticulously     laid out.

I must have been 3 when I first noticed this:
          haunting             steps 
                                                    tricycle rides to the corner.
              Nothing felt the same 
                                 that—as if redemption 
                    had finally been confirmed
as a hollow promise.

It’s true that all of the pieces have always been there.
just       like 
so many ear marked   pages
    that              one    hopes 
to return to,
      pressed      to gether 
in dark
And             in            silence.
              And then         set back 
on               the                                                shelf,
Sure, all the pieces 
have always                been  there.

And   just  like  some  sort    of      hope of being.
And              not 
         sim   ply the self                   hoped 
       Not                                        sim                                   ply        
vi              sions                                                    of          self.
Like             shadow             boxing
                    Or                tagging                  along
       the        hope 
         of                 some                   vision of    self,
like       a                                   side          kick.

like                                                     waking 
and        get             ting            ready   for          the day,
     stum bl
     ing down 
               the stairs 
                    getting                    coffee
and going. Dream worlds                  do   not     seem
to    dis       appear           any                           faster
than      any experienced world.

All of the pieces       had always been there.
And it had              always                                                      made 
                  so much 
sense. Just like shadowboxing.
And sidekicks.

All of these projected   senses 
All of these worlds                   of connection.
And then the hope that we can simply    walk away
And find something else to do.

As the son of an itinerant preacher and evangelist, Joel Gunderson’s childhood was profoundly shaped by his father’s revival ministry, which led the family around the world before finally settling in the Philippines. Joel conceives of his spoken composition process as a way of leaning into the immediacy, populism, and relationality of the nightly inspiration his father experienced at the pulpit, each night built on the same salvific message but often guided by the reaction to the night before (and also by the idea of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). Though Joel’s poems display a deep skepticism of any notion of Salvation,  they  simultaneously celebrate, if only in their process, the Orphic element of his father’s evangelistic calling, then extending it further into written poetic form through an interactive communal process of authorship with multiple collaborators. The product of one of those collaborations, with Mark Gotelli, is presented here.

Joel Gunderson currently lives in Portland, OR where he makes wine, runs restaurants, and hangs out with his wife and kids. His work has been published in The Adirondack Review and Poor Claudia.

Mark Gotelli was born and raised in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied philosophy and English lit at UC Berkeley and Portland State University, focusing on the role of subjectivity in the development of aesthetic experience. He lives in Portland, OR, where he sells wine and runs the beautiful trails of Forest Park as much as possible. This is his first published work.