Saturday, April 17, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Condo; A poem, by James Boring

REVIEW by Martin Abramson first published in Book/Mark,Fall-Winter 2006-07

Condo: a Poem, by James Boring. 2006, Lit Pot Press,Oceanside, CA Inc. 59pp. $10.00

In this modern art gallery of portraits eviscerating the residents of a senior citizen community, Jim Boring calls them as he sees them; and brother, can he see them! The shocking cover photo of a naked, middle aged woman with an unreconstructed mastectomy should tell us that there is to be no merciful soft-focus or blurring of the age-lines in this collection. Each poem begins with the number of an apartment and in a few incredibly deft strokes, lays bare the story behind each door.


She walks ahead of him
Carrying the bag of beans
Deference to his solitary nature
He looks up from time to time
Her broad bottom rolling before him
Reminds him of the way.

Sometimes the author alludes to a Florida setting: “Look at these birds/ White as there is no other word for it snow/ With their long curved beaks and their legs/ With the kneecaps on backwards” (Ibises). “In the Parking Lot” notes the EMS truck that responds to a late night emergency: “The heavy throbbing of the engine/ Mocks the poor heart it rescues”. They’re all here: the old man with his voices, the vet who broods on the absurdity of his wartime experience, the Holocaust survivor, the aimless widow, the faithful caretaker, the neighborhood watcher, the grandma primping for a date, the couples living in mutual misery. All done in a conversational, street-wise argot that cradles tender personal emotions in thick, but strangely gentle workman’s gloves.
Some poems look back on lifetimes, others snapshot momentary tableaux. Some wonder about lost feelings, some marvel at feelings that remain. From the Rabbi trying to say something meaningful about a deceased person he never knew, to the old heads nodding in dark corners, death pervades this book; sometimes as the enemy, often as an expected friend. These poems are about the wreckage left by death as well as the dread of its approach.

He slumps small in the wheelchair
A boneless bag his head
Limp on his shoulder
Hands between his legs

But there is such astonishing tenderness as well:

Once in a while he asks for my breast
He doesn’t just take it he asks for it

I lean down to him lying in my lap
Over an old child softly sucking.

The power of simplicity never had a more able advocate:

Unit 201

The Widowed Second Wife

I know he loved me best
He told me so
She was so cold

He loved the things I did
He told me so
I did them for him

My mouth meant more to him
He told me so
My breasts my heart

He did not think of her
He told me so

I think of her.

If that poem took you to as deep a level as it did me, you will find much beauty and wonderment in Condo.

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