Oded Wolkstein On:
Richard Nixon, My Mother by Tahel Frosh
Richard Nixon, My Mother distills the best of Greed, Tahel Frosh’s groundbreaking poetry book. A long poem or maybe a poetic story, it embodies her poetry’s brave and exhilarating shift toward prose and the prosaic. The text playfully deals with the classic components of a family drama, which includes, besides the narrator, a brother, a mother and a frustrating object of desire. This paranoid fantasy brings the mother to a club where the brother is performing and forces her and the daughter into an unbearable moment of intimacy in the toilets. But instead of charging this moment with the conventional contents that accompany the fantasy about the intrusive/castrating mother, Frosh marvelously updates the scene and exposes the common, pivotal and unspoken component of the castrating scene: the parent presenting his unemployed son or daughter with an absurd job offer (Don’t say you don’t know it!). Frosh creates a brilliant link between the theatre of classic psychoanalytic gestures (for example, the mother pees vigorously while the daughter suffers from “performance anxiety”, and so on) and the general situation that unsettles and redefines the relationships inside the family. The daughter’s gradual submission to the mother’s reality check is dramatized with virtuosic and very funny irony (“Maybe I should be a business woman like him. What’s so terrible about that?”); and in a world where there are only ghosts of men (where do the brother and object of desire disappear as the story progresses? There is no doubt that the evening’s real performance is taking place in the toilets and belongs to the mother and daughter), this submission is coated with a certain sweetness: this poem-story ends with a moment of bizarre intimacy between the two women and uses a single motion to untie an entanglement that could have been the focus of an entire novel in itself.