Tuesday, June 09, 2009

At the Threshold of ALCHEMY by John Amen

At the Threshold of ALCHEMY

by John Amen

Presa Press

Rockford, Michigan

Softbound, 83 pages

ISBN: 978-0-9800081-5-9

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Raw. That’s the word that comes to mind when I read many of the poems in John Amen’s At the Threshold of ALCHEMY. The other thought I have is that when he writes about subjects such as death, divorce, masturbation (during a wake) there is a sense of the merciless, unending sledgehammers pounding you as in After the Funeral:

The floorboards exhaled,

walls slept for the first time in years.

Grandma slouched in the foyer,

her belly mounding in her lap, makeup streaked.

I distracted myself in the basement, thinking

of Ms. Gilham, my face in her cleavage.

Upstairs, aunts and neighbors – the mercenaries

of resilience –cooked, cleaned, scrubbed

until the house could have passed for a delivery room

I reemerged,

and his brother gnawing the gristly silence.

No one noticed the stain on my corduroys

or saw me put a silver spoon in my pocket.

Amen’s visuals are explicit, his meanings an opposite of what a good wake or shiva is all about. The mystery is his age at the event. The final result can be fascination or revulsion.

In the poem Martin Amen writes directly to a friend:

You were seriously fried, Martin, when you got back from Ecuador,

demanding steak fajitas at the Dairy Queen, asking stranger if they

planned to vote for the messiah in the next election.

There is much more to this poem, more of muscle and gristle Amen is best at portraying.

His poetry is a mirror of the underside of life, poems that reflect visions of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, bad dreams that crawl into the brain and come out the eyes. A pen – or computer – that tries to record it all while it’s fresh as a dandelion still yellow. His surrealism is Dali in words, Picasso in thoughts wrought in short, raw poems.

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