We’ve learned to think for cars, and think like them;
we know their schematics better than our own anatomy.
Our blood’s been mixed with waste oil, our bones
replaced with bent rods. Our brains are computers
that cannot reboot. The dash lights are on.
Why do we do it, why do we lie down
on these dollies and slide under another Dodge,
another Corvette, another Ferrari we’ll never afford—
link by link, our hands broken in the wreckage,
groping for salvage as if it were salvation.
I think of the millions of miles of accumulation,
all the scum of the earth sucked up on a Sunday drive—
the sludge, the sludge, unstomachable.
Neon and sweet, the ethylene leaks. The blood
of a rodent sputters from the hubcap, and the rubber
hisses from a nail. What began as a spot of rust
ends in cancer. There is a diagnosis, there is a danger—
corrosion in the engine: the cylinders
eaten, the pistons spit out, the brute steel
beaten like an anvil under heat…
And at the end of the day, I just can’t get the filth
out from under my fingernails.
by Ryan Dowling
Epizeuxis (ep-ih-zook-sis) is the immediate repetition of a word one or more times, as indicated by the underlined words in the following excerpts from the poetry of Sylvia Plath (1932-1963):
You poke and stir,
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer,
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
(from Lady Lazarus)
This is a nice little device that’s not too difficult to get a handle on. Moreover, it can pack a punch when used effectively. Note that the repeated word’s article and modifier are included in this next example:
I do not stir.
The frost makes a flower,
The dew makes a star,
The dead bell,
The dead bell.
Somebody’s done for.
(from Death & Co.)
Aside from the pleasant sound its repetition creates, the device is a stylistic favorite of Plath’s. It imbues the speaker’s voice in her poems with an impassioned tone, and sometimes a manic one. It’s as if she’s so animated she cannot help but repeat herself:
Such pure leaps and spirals—
Surely they travel
The world forever, I shall not entirely
Sit emptied of beauties, the gift
Of your small breaths, the drenched grass
Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.
(from The Night Dances)
Be sure to add epizeuxis to your tool box!