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MANGLER

I am myself at times
a mangler. One who
mangles a line, the
natural sequence
of things, what comes
before and after.
And an item might arrive
mangled, say a letter,
posted in one piece,
here now in bits
and collected into
its plastic pouch
bearing postal regrets.
Mangled things
bring to mind wreckage,
snatched underbrush swept
into a meandering line
across the wide field
by the swollen, roiling
river. Tongues
mangle language,
especially under duress --
the writer rushing
one word into the next
such that they break
into pieces, so defeated
by the fear of reading
feverish prose before
us. From Middle English,
itʼs to maim, in our time,
disfigure by cutting,
tearing or crushing, and also,
so piteously, to make
incoherent through ineptitude.
But the mangler, an object
now found shelved among
other obsoletes, dusty
in cluttered barns, over-
stuffed vintage shops,
so discarded, the mangler
made things right.
Etchings of the thing
call to mind machines
made to roll out sheets
of pasta, or those hand-
turned mechanisms
potters use to press clay
into slabs. Making things
right, in each case,
entails flattening, erasure
writ via the turn
of a wheel.
The mangler itself,
thus named, perhaps,
for its brute undoing
of linenʼs willful wrinkles,
relieved its users from tedious
ironing and from the use
of hand-forced mangle
boards, also known
as bittle, batler, beetle
and battledore.
On fine days one might
wheel oneʼs mangler
out of doors and there
flatten unruly sheets
while catching a passing
breeze. I like to think
of mangling as fixing
or, at least, as ripe
with potential, despite
the faults a line
might bear, the shreds
in which an epistolary
gesture might arrive,
the stuttering disintegration
the tongue might
utter. I am myself
at times a mangler, out
of whack but on the verge
of leveling out.

Giavanna Munafo
4/30/11