Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Justin Barrett's Nowhere Utah

This collection of poems is part of the Pocket Protector Series of Alternating Current's press. Justin Barrett has been featured before here at Poet Hound and his poems are continuously straightforward and enjoyable to read. As always, I will share some poems from his book, Nowhere Utah which describes his relationships with women and of the lonely roadways of Utah where he now resides.

a tangle of hair and arms

a brown dusk filters
through the canopy
above the playground.

she straddles a
see-saw, held aloft
by my heft
as i stand on the other end.

she holds a cigarette
in her fingers; not for the necessity of
it, yet, but to appear older
and more mature.

she rarely brings
it to her lips.

i want to grab
her, hold her,
kiss her
like we did that time
in her father’s garage
as everyone else slept;
but i know
that i, too, will
never be brought
to her lips, again.

i look up at her.

she turns her head
toward me and smiles,
her mouth
barely visible.

her head is
silhouetted against the ashen sky.

suddenly, i hop off
my end of the
see-saw and she drops,
a tangle of hair
and arms.

The immediate idea that comes to mind is that this is a memory of a grade-school sweetheart, and of course I had to e-mail Justin to ask if I am correct. Either way, it is a sweet memory that is brought with a minimum of sappy phrases while still remaining romantic in its focus with short lines such as “her mouth/barely visible” and “her head is/silhouetted” then “she drops,/a tangle of hair/and arms.” Well executed and hard to achieve yet Justin Barrett is able to accomplish it in concise, clear terms in this poem.

in the burning house of angels homeless children play with the bones of god

the fire started in the apse and
quickly spread through the
the nave and the sanctuary.
it consumed the altar in orange
veil, black smoke suffocating
the crucified savior
behind the pulpit.

the font boiled over,
steam rising to the ceiling,
masking the stained glass
image of the
virgin and her baby.

four little girls, trapped inside,
asleep, hungry, hoping for
help from their
instead found the devil
of humanity.

This is a horrifying poem and this is why I bring it to you. Not all poems confront the darker side of life so bluntly. I wonder where the inspiration for the poem comes from and who is “the devil of humanity” at the end? Is it someone who set the fire? Is it the lack of safety mechanisms in place to save the girls who were trapped inside? Was it ignorance in regards to the absence of attempt to put out the fire? There are many possible “devils” and no answers. Sometimes the enjoyment of the poem is the mystery and the frustration in knowing there is no answer given to us as readers.

Perspective from the 10,000-Foot View; Or What We Learned in Couples Therapy

It turns out that from
The 10,000-foot view
I’m still an
Inconsiderate asshole
And she a spiteful,
Condescending bitch.

Just on a much
Smaller scale.

I find this poem hilarious as a result of its bluntness. This poem is a literal take that the big problems in our daily lives are not so large yet they remain. The only conclusion I added for myself at this poem was “bummer.” How about you?

If you enjoyed this short sample of poems from this chapbook you may visit the alternating current site by clicking the link provided at the beginning. Again, the royalties go to the poets themselves and the Pocket Protector Series chapbooks cost $3.00 each, or you can get a one-year subscription of 12 books for $30.00.

Thanks always for reading and please drop in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…


j.b said...

thanks, poethound, for your review. i've always appreciated your support, not only of my work but of all of us small press poets.

i look forward to more reviews. :)

oh, and i hope i didn't ruin any illusions with my "explanations". like you said, sometimes the enjoyment of the poem is the mystery... :)

Poet Hound said...

You didn't ruin any of the poems with the explanations, but I thought I'd keep the mystery alive for the readers. Always happy to read your poems and I'll always support the small press poets and the presses who publish them.