Sunday, March 09, 2008

Into the River Somewhere by Mark Jackley

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback (chapbook), 27 pgs.
Publisher: Finishing Line Press, 2007
Price: $14.00
ISBN: 978-1-59924-224-8

Life—and poetry—is in the simple things. In the details. In the short words of everyday, out of the mouths of common folk. God is found, or invited to join in, when a father shampoos his little girl’s hair. Or watches his eight-year-old create art with her Crayolas. Christmas becomes poignant in a convenience store, scanning a Rolling Stone magazine. Bonds are formed while sitting shoulder to shoulder on a slightly worn patch of grass. And death is averted, one moment longer, when we slide the gun back into the drawer.

This is how poet Mark Jackley sees the world through his poetic lens. If a verse of everyday words does not enchant you, dig deeper, stay longer. You will find it draws you in. Surprises you just when you think there is nothing new for you. Because Jackley is right: what moves us most and what touches us deepest are precisely the little things and the momentary glimpses, passing images, impressions that haunt us forever, emotions that linger long after doors appear to be closed. Nothing pretentious in this poet. He is heart on sleeve, and the sleeve is rolled up.

What My Father Smoked

Borkum Riff, tamped into his pipe
his finger spade-like,
tobacco moist as earth
to which the men he lost
in war returned,
whom I doubt he ever buried
in his armchair in the dark.

A sudden flame – I see him glow,
wreathed in smoke, palming ashes.

Yes, that simple. Don’t just read that little poem once. Read it again, and the smoke drifts around your head, you begin to smell it, draw it into your lungs. Read it a third time. Now you feel the moist earth, and the crumbling of human flesh back into earth, ashes to ashes, and a lost soul somewhere crumbling a little, too. Read it again.

Read it yet again.

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