Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“Falling Off The Bicycle Forever” by Michael Rattee

Falling Off The Bicycle Forever”
poems by Michael Rattee
Adastra Press

Review by Tomas O'Leary

Having read these poems cover to cover several times, just to be sure I
was interpreting my own response without bias or alien input, I’m relieved to have arrived at this moment of pronouncement with clear head and easy heart.

The poems are in speech that is plain, but composed by an eloquent
mind. Each plays out in casual narrative, seeming to chance upon its gem of mystery or revelation as it rolls along. The entire book is innocent of punctuation; and while I personally am committed even to the semicolon, I gotta confess that these poems work fine without it.

Since each of these poems is the whole poem, not lending itself to
lifted lines for the sake of a statement about it, I offer the following run of first lines only to demonstrate my sense of spontaneous genesis throughout the volume: Somewhere there’s a dog; He imagines a world without excuses; It isn’t the day she wanted; He needed to get away; The man running behind the bus; His passion for the future; Some of us live our lives. . . .

The poems assert themselves without fanfare, but usually towards a
dead-on finale that alerts us to remember to remember. Here’s the title poem, on whose note the book closes:

Father was drunk and showing how
closely he could lead Lady
his hunting dog he jumped
off the porch falling to his knees
the shotgun waving wildly
with the second shot he winged
the dog and as she fell
head over heels he grabbed
a bicycle and headed headlong
down the dirt road yelling
he was a boy again by god
halfway down the hill gravel
caught the front wheel wrenching
it sideways and throwing him
over the handlebars in midair
he turned back to us yelling
and whooping flailing his arms
falling off the bicycle forever

Everything really quite simply is just about memory. Here’s a coda for
the hell of it: I’d just started writing this thing when my brother Jerry called from a hospital in Baltimore. He was in a rush, stepped off a curb, his ankle at a quirkish angle, lost his balance, flung himself forward to protect his head, and broke his hip. Damned if it didn’t feel like the casual calamity in a poem by Michael Rattee. I’ll send my brother this book; I bet we’ll both remember having read it.

--Tomas O’Leary

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