Essential.
Essential. Natalie Fobes / GETTY IMAGES

Last night Governor Jay Inslee deemed employees of geoduck fisheries "essential," which reminded me, obviously, of a line from a poem by Dean Young called "Crash Test Dummies of an Imperfect God." You can find that poem in Shock by Shock, the first book he published after (thankfully successfully) undergoing a heart transplant in 2011. The book is available, as many are, at your local bookstore.

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A few notes:

• Young always cites his major influences as the poets of the so-called New York School (you've already met Frank O'Hara), and also the big-time French surrealists. This influence manifests in his wonderful and lasting distortion of lyric poem structure. Instead of giving us a stable speaker, or the "lyric 'I,'" he sometimes gives us a bunch of different voices, none of whom can be trusted. And when he does just give us one voice, that voice uses associative reasoning to leap from line to line, rather than following some rule of meter (as in a sonnet). And while a general theme or subject does often govern the speaker's thoughts, the relationship between the imagery and the language aren't as tight as they are in a lyric poem by, say, Robert Frost.

• Let's just take one example from a few lines of "Crash Test Dummies of an Imperfect God," which includes the line that reminds me of Inslee's proclamation:

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Is it all in the mind, the dirty, dirty mind?
Maybe God tried to turn you into a garbage can
so you could be lifted by the truck’s hydraulic
arms and banged empty. Maybe a snow cone
so you could be sticky-sweet and dropped.
Maybe a genital-faced bivalve to be dashed
with Tabasco and eaten whole or, to his glory,
produce a pearl.

At first glance, this little cascade of imagery appears random, but it all fits together under the theme of "trash." Young's "dirty mind" jumps, of course, to an image of a "garbage can." He then jumps to the dropped snow cone, which is a piece of garbage. The "genital-faced bivalve" calls back to the speaker's "dirty mind," and while the final image of the "pearl" is a pretty jewel to human eyes, it's essentially trash to the bivalve. The surrealist idea here is that our sensorium is making all of these connections subconsciously, which is partly why the poem feels so satisfying even though it includes apparently wildly different images.

• It's also fun to note that the pearl in the bivalve links back to the prize in the Cracker Jack box that opens the poem. Both of those images link to the god Young discusses so humorously in the middle section—after all, we're the trash of gods, or they're our trash, and neither party seems particularly pumped about that relationship. Ten points if you can tell me where the line about the pickle spear fits into the poem's logic.