Tuesday, July 24, 2007

solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short by Ed Carvalho

solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short
Edward J. Carvalho
Fine Tooth Press ($12.95)

by Doug Holder 560 wds. Rec’d 7/2/07. Rel date FEB 07

Edward J. Carvalho is not afraid of the warts on the smooth surface of civilization. Carvalho, with the perceptive gimlet eye of a skilled poet, focuses in on the archetypes of our modern society to get beyond the sizzle to the steak of existence in his new poetry collection: “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The title indicates a Hobbesian view of the world, and Carvalho’s book is not for the faint of heart, but I couldn’t call the book bleak. It is full of humor, original language and insights:

In the poem “Sometimeboy” the poet, an observant fly-on-the- wall, views a man of a certain age reading a magazine about boats. Carvalho wonders if the man’s dreams hit the shoals and wonders if he will be able to avoid the same pitfalls:

There you are in front of my book,
poor man, there you are reading a magazine
about boats, your hair is white.

I don’t know your name
But your hat says “brew Moon”
And your t-shirt says “Mr. Drain.”

Maybe, one night after schooners
of beer, we can empty the ocean together
and you can tell me

what happens to the life of man
when it sags like that toothpick
from the corner of your lips,

is chewn by dentures to the very end?

And what better image to bring home the point than the sagging point of a forlorn toothpick?

In many of the poems in this collection Carvalho examines how we are cut off from ourselves and from society. Carvalho dives into the “no strings attached” world of the “wireless” crowd to give the reader a view of contemporary alienation. In the poem: “Song of the Wireless Man,” he unearths and subverts the wireless world with the same techno babble that is currency in this milieu:

"The trees are not telephone poles unrealized, to be cut wireless, man, smooth/
from roots,/ the forests were not all grown to carry contracts and proposals in digital cans to restaurants./Let me eat in pieces the hills of upstate New York the deciduous mountains/of New England."

just one cup of cafÈ coffee should be placid, not ripple hippie to delicious in phat
ebbs of “Rappers Delight” Baby (baby) Bubbah look away from the satellite and leave
the cirrus as they are,
do not attempt to find hybrid ways to store your data behind a trail of Wi-Fi
moisture miles above, your wireless cousins in their flying casinos.

“Uncle Horsie” is a poem that will make you think twice and perhaps thrice before you let your genial brother play with your kid. Here Carvalho places the innocence of childhood in a dance with jaded adulthood:

My niece
takes great pride in being
a 3 year-old cowgirl.
She likes to play with me,
the goateed equine

She doesn’t know
how adults pretend—
how I want to leave
the laughter of the family room,
go the bathroom

and eat an orchard of Percocet
from her grandfather’s
medicine cabinet—
all this to be a better
when I’m home

She knows the part of me
who is Uncle Horsie
when I return smiling
to the captured stable
never letting her see
any of the real animal lurking
beneath the saddle.

This is a fine first collection by Ed Carvalho.

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