Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Green Chair. By Mark DeFoe. Buckhannon: Pringle Tree Press, 2003. $10.00 (pa.)

In the title poem to his fifth collection, DeFoe pleads, "Give me this moment forever." In this slim volume of thirty poems, he attempts to achieve just that, by capturing the resonating moments in his subjects' lives in the here and now. He attempts to pin these moments down and save them.

Many of these poems deal with an attempt to hold on to humanity in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to it. DeFoe shows us humanity in a most inhuman locale in "Coming Out of Wal Mart," where he describes a family being playful: "The Man is a tiny horse/ gentle at a fence. The boy's eyes are huge/ as a fawn's." Even in this cookie cutter monstrosity, there is hope, he seems to be saying.

In the beautifully ironic "Margaritaville," he shows us a Daytona dying; "Against the sand, progress has thrown up/ a picket line of condos." This is a portrait of self-destruction, and the all consuming quest to be entertained. DeFoe's judgments are harsh. "Off Africa," he says, "the predicted tsunami devoutly/awaits consummation." But even this harshness is tinged with irony. The tsunami serves as a device to deliver humanity from having to clean up after the party. The true, unspoken horror is the realization that we will not be wiped away, the world reborn. We're going to have to clean this mess up ourselves.

At times alien or achingly familiar, DeFoe renders even the oddest situations with human foibles. As in "Polar Bear Eats Missionary Woman While She Ministers to the Aleut," a hilarious parable of sexual repression, in which he describes the obsession with sameness, and conformity through the polar bear, who "could fill/the whole world with white bear people who/ told boring white bear stories..." And who would want to live in a world where all the "bears" (and the stories) were the same?

DeFoe fills his worlds with evocative imagery, language and characters. He achieves graceful forms and that rarest of accomplishments, the unobtrusive rhyme, as in these lines from "The Gambler," where he describes the struggle of an addict to resist temptation: "...just a fiver now and then/ on computer casino. Yes, Vegas/ crossed his mind - real roulette, a wheel to spin/ but that glitter would suck off his wages."

DeFoe's poems are honest, but there's humor there. In "Nine Reasons Why I Chose You," he describes the family of his wife (to be): "...twelve bridesmaids, twelve flower girls/ they gawked. They stared. At last, such wonderful hate."

DeFoe captures the moments in the fading lives of his subjects that bears remembering. As in the title poems, where he says, "Let this sun last, let this old chair remain." The moments in our lives in which we rise and fall are memories with which we should sit, now and then, like that old chair, and DeFoe captures them with grace, unchanging, reverberating throughout time.
-Originally Published in The Hollins Critic

No comments: