Dallas Crow's Small, Imperfect Paradise is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. We get brief glimpses of a happy world but in short order the wheels come off and the poems paint the collapse of a family. The redemption for the reader is in the quality of the poems.
The Aesthetics of Gravity
Think of the pleasure boys take in falling,
the hours they devote to it: ko'd, shot
in the back, machine-gunned in the
gut; tackled, clotheslined, checked,
body-blocked, tripped; in slow motion
whenever possible; preferably
for an audience of friends or family;
dramatically, comically; into
pillows, hay, leaves, mud, snow—
any pile promising padding or a mess;
water, too; flips, splits, bellyflops,
can openers and cannonballs.
Some may argue that phylogeny
recapitulates ontogeny, that
they are reliving that initial fall
from grace themselves; others may
insist they somehow sense their
own mortality, and are preparing for
their future decline; but I am convinced—
watching my sons catapult and pirouette
through the invisible air, then replay
those all too brief moments of flight
again and again for friends—they are
enchanted by the aesthetics of gravity.
Icarus is their hero, not for his
Pyrrhic success or greedy heedlessness,
but for his most delightful failure.
Richard Brautigan had a poem about the end of love that I will paraphrase (because I am writing this from bed and am too lazy to go find it downstairs).
there is no better feeling
than waking up in the morning
and not having
to tell someone
you love them
when you don't love them
(my apologies to Richard Brautigan for whatever I've done to the real poem - which I will find and reprint)
Dallas Crow is mining some of that same disillusioned territory. But in these poems there are children, a family, and there is nothing bittersweet about the story - yet the poems are exactly that - bittersweet, tasty.
Small, Imperfect Paradise
Imperfect as it is, this
is paradise. My soon-to-be
ex-wife, the traitor,
sleeps upstairs, while I
lie awake down here.
Why is this paradise?
Because the kids
don't know yet.
These poems about loss are almost too familiar as they drag us over the rocky shoals of disappointment. But these short, sharp jabs have a cumulative effect. Crow has distilled his anger, grief and hope into something vibrant.
Like a home movie played backwards, the gifts
are rewrapped and taken away, the guests
sidle awkwardly out, and then your children leave,
smiling and waving, leaving you alone in the empty
house. Alone. And then more alone. The silence
you've always adored wraps itself around you,
enveloping you in its octopus embrace.
Dallas Crow is a high school English teacher at the Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, he lives in St. Paul. His poems have appeared in numerous journals.
By following this link you will find a recording of Dallas Crow reading his poem "The Holy Order of Fish Handlers". The recording is from The Beat, Northern Community Radio, KAXE & KBXE.