Saturday, March 03, 2012
By Marshall D. Dury
Reviewed by Dennis Daly
This modest chapbook by Marshall Dury chronicles breaths, and whispers, and wordlessness. These are quiet poems, and at their best—haunting. There is a lot of soul-searching going on here in a very literal sense. In Cicatrix (Prelude) the poet considers the nature of memories,
tender the memories,
tender the changes.
a new softness rising in you,
the suppleness of skin, gone.
The body of his lover loses its suppleness as our memories of the past soften and lose their essential tension. As the strength of a mountain can erode, so can our past, which in this poet’s words is a “delicate vessel.” As the poet seems to imply, the past changes with time, becomes set as a story or series of stories, and then changes yet again. Then with time the past collapses into itself losing substance and eventually vanishing.
The poem Being Gift Enough celebrates the sweet breath of life. It seems to argue that life alone is blessing enough and that all of us should stop and take it in. This pantheistic vision is exhilarating with the breath of life literally dancing in one’s heart,
if you breathe it truly.
let it dance in the beautiful mess
of veins and heart
that the night is quiet, is still:
your dog’s soft chirps of dreaming,
your wife’s skin soft love, warm breath of joy,
that these, most any night,
be gift enough to truly know
what a blessing is.
By the way, dogs do really chirp in their sleep, while dreaming. At least my dog does. Good observation.
In Reverie, not only do we dream our life in nearby houses, but as we listen carefully the two realities merge, and the poet and his lover merge,
Where dreams show us what beauty our lives are now,
If we be willing to listen
If we be willing to live the reverie of this life together
Until there is no difference.
Sharing dreams do cement lovers together (even in other people’s houses) like nothing else.
In an unusual poem, entitled For Sylvia Plath’s Audience—The Ones Who Repeatedly Tried To Carve Out The Last Name ‘Hughes’ From Her Headstone, Dury attempts to explain the unexplainable with, I believe, mixed results. The poem is clearly aimed at Plath’s infamous husband, the well- known and accomplished poet, Ted Hughes. Dury mulls the complicated human desire for correcting great mistakes and wonders what a life would be if, by some magic, a destructive flaw could be chiseled out of the story of one’s life, in this case, Plath’s unhappy marriage. These lines show insight and are memorable,
Peeling away cold days
Like we can forget them
By choice. The motionless
Fissure where your chisel
May strip from stone
All that misunderstanding…
The poem entitled Plain upon Plain meditates on the mystery and artistry of writing. An internal geography emerges from the tip of the poet's ball point pen,
… words falling through the funnel of your pen—this ballpoint,
received as a wedding gift. You see:
dewed, silent hills. tall grass,
small twists of morning light..
life held up, hoisted over your heart.
the inner country of your soul unfolds,
plain upon plain…
I think the best poem in the book is the last: On the Failing of Words. A fourteen year old boy seeks communication with his very sick brother. The poet details the limits of art. Sometimes words fall short. It’s one of the flaws in humanity,
that is all you want.
for your words
simply to be
And sometimes they just aren’t. Dury nails this poem and a good many others in this surprising chapbook.