As We Refer to Our Bodies by Darren C. Demaree

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Shelley Carpenter


carpenterAs We Refer to Our Bodies (8th House Publishing, 2013) is a collection of poems by Darren C. Demaree, a recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations. Demaree’s poems traverse human spaces and natural places in the poet’s world—reminiscent of the metaphysical poets. Each poem is an elegy to the tangible and untouchable. Images of animals, people, and rural life are layered within a kaleidoscopic context of emotion and existentialism as the poet contemplates the big questions with swirling thoughts that reach beyond the unassailable boundaries of ocean, sky and earth.

First, they found me,

then it was proven

that I wasn’t there.
I was on the land,

then I was under
the thinnest ocean,

digging back & back
trying to outflank

the processional.

— Ohios, p. 37

The collection is organized in three sections: Directions for Leaving, Ohios, and Black & White Pictures. It is interesting that many of the poems have no titles. Is there more meaning in their absence? Does their absence relate something else, a seamless, unspeakable thought to ponder and track along the poems lines and borders?

There is lovely allusion and repetition of word. The frequent usage of the ampersand is also intriguing, perhaps suggestive of a backward glancing speaker?

                            … She’ll
dream of darkened roses
& their profound thorns.
She’ll dream shining lines
with no context & no end.
She’ll dream in orange
& mango & her lips will
quiver without knowing why.

— Black & White Pictures, p. 66

Burning is another theme that flows throughout the collection along with a strong sense of place, a searing passion for life and love and the land.

Finally, sex like a burned
corn field, raw & rough
& in the dirt, a story peppered
with the word “soiled.”

— Ohios, p. 19

The subjects of the poems are personified in gorgeous figurative language and loving metaphor. Bodies change shape and transform to and from ordinary objects, organic and manufactured, that represent more—a way of life or perhaps a longing for something or someone, and with it a sense that the poet may be lost in his own love and desire—as seen in the Emily poems.

Not as a bee, so close
to the ground, so nested
in the one, colored hive;

my love is a lunatic
with wings, a dynamo
in reds, in oranges,

— “Emily as Thousands of Colliding Butterflies” (p. 46)

There is also an ethereal feature to many of Demaree’s poems. A lingering sense like one has been traveling far in their dream. And then waking up and not fully remembering one’s dream but recalling only fragments, yet knowing the full feeling of the dream and what it meant to be in the dream: so poignant—so vivid—so alive.

There was sky where the stars had died
& each time we replaced one

the heat of falling rock would consume
us. I don’t remember the colors.
I don’t remember the weight of it.
I remember the burning, mostly.

— “Ways You Can Lose Your Heart #16” (p. 12)

Demaree’s reach stretches across the boundaries of the human heart, delving into its many fissures and secret chambers, bubbling up with sentiment and ferocity that disturbs.

Something opened its eyes when
you first did, nestled itself
next to you, in your crib & for

the rest of time will be nose-
to-nose with you, never yielding.

—Ohios, p. 23

As We Refer to Our Bodies is a stirring collection of poems that travels along the American landscape and taps the many veins of the human experience with a heroic passion and an honesty that is brutally eloquent and soulful.

*

Darren C. Demaree lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. He is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net nomination. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including Toasted Cheese. He is the author of As We Refer to Our Bodies (8th House, 2013), Temporary Champions (Main Street Rag, 2014), and Not For Art Nor Prayer (8th House, 2015). Temporary Champions is a collection of poems about the 1982 title fight between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim. You can find links to more of Darren’s work on his blog and at Twitter: @d_c_demaree.

pencilShelley Carpenter is TC’s Reviews Editor. Email: harpspeed[at]toasted-cheese.com

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