Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Jesus in the Ghost Room by Rusty Barnes


Jesus in the Ghost Room
by Rusty Barnes
Copyright © 2017 Rusty Barnes
Nixes Mate Books
Allston, MA
ISBN 978-0-9991882-7-9
Softbound, 63 pages, $9.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Rusty Barnes’ poetry is cold, hard, raw. That is exactly what makes it an engaging read. It is about Rusty Barnes … at times Rusty and his late father. Barnes is also warm, soft and polished. His poems are down-to-earth, easily accessible.

In “Arrow-Fishing” he recounts his days fishing in what was once fairly deep water and how animals get the best of the quarry he was after.


The pond has become marsh now
but when it was waist deep I would
go to the middle in the depths
of much to arrow-fish for the huge gold-
fish my landlord had stocked years
before. I remember brining the bow
to my eye and sighting like a gun7
along the top of my thumb the string
tense in my fingers and the feeling
as I Barnes f I were going under. I remember
overshooting as I adjusted my shot
for refraction. I didn’t make that one
but eventually the heard heart of the world
won out and the goldfish became bones
on the bank killed by coon or mink.
But I love the tense thrill of the shot still
I have only to close my eyes to recall.

As in his other poems, Barnes reflects on his past and in this poem, “Circus,” he recalls
some aspects of those days.


If the Ringling Brothers were alive today
they wouldn’t know how to begin.

Freak shows today are everywhere
if you know where to look,
there on the common field of life
with the tattooed and the pierced,

the extraordinarily hairy together
with the unfunny and the trolls

who try to ruin it for everyone who
is not so jaded. I can see the tents in

my mind, the huge spikes that serve
as pegs and the groups of rope fest=

ooned with elephant shit and stale popcorn.
It is pur magic and we only have so much.

What makes Rusty Barnes interesting is that many of us have, “been there, done that,” but have not seen it in the way Barnes portrays it in this book.

In “My Father’s Hip: 1972 Flood” Barnes provides insight into not only his childhood and tenderness toward his father, but his daughter as well. He recalls an important moment in his life despite the dangers he encountered.

One day the crick rose a couple feet
after three days steady rain that brought
logs ramming into rocks and a couple
dead dogs floating in the brown spume.
My dad lifted me up and brought me
to the very edge of the eroded banks
that with every rainstorm came just
a little closer to our house. I don’t recall
what he said to me but I felt safe next
to his gritty cheek and the typical cigarette.
Beside me my brother Joes jumped from foot
to foot excited as all hell to be a branch
in that raging water. He slipped down
the bank screaming but dad never lost
a beat still holding me he whipped around
and caught my brother by the back
out pretty heavily once he was safe
but sitting on his hip in the driving rain
I felt overcome by my smallness.
Like all kids I returned to the site
of the scene 30 years later, dipping my
young daughter’s feet in that same water.

These are examples of Barnes’s recollections of life. In particular his poetry recollects memories of his father, the death of his uncle and his leaning on his loving wife for support.

Barnes grew up in rural Appalachia. He weaves those years with his life in the Boston, MA area into a book of poetry that moves along at a rapid, always interesting pace,
with many poetic stories not soon forgotten.

Zvi A. Sesling, author of The Lynching of Leo Frank
and the forthcoming War Zones (Nixes Mate Books)
Publisher & Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review
and Editor of Bagel Bard Anthologies 7,8 & 12
Poet Laureate, Brookline, MA

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