Lurid imagery, squalid settings and redemptive epiphanies run riot in these vivid poems.
Morbid themes run deep in this collection, as forthrightly declared in “Poe Describing Me”: “This numbing, slow-moving self-ignorance runs through my veins. / Like embalming fluid being injected while my blood gushes into a sink.” Many of the lugubrious poems are set in the detritus of some unspecified personal or planetary apocalypse: “Back to the Future” surveys ruins where “Splinters of glass pop through each and every bare toe,” “God-given Situation” takes in another desolate tableau featuring “Maalox bottles packaged with barf bags. / An ant colony hired as full-time maids,” and “Nearly the End” imagines an eclipse that “left the world forever dark.” And ordinary life? In “Time-Bomb Rocky,” it’s a meaningless cycle of ritual niceties and ennui, of “Try[ing] not to belch out loud in front of the old lady’s mannerly kids” while “The clock still spins in invisible circles like helicopter blades” and “The determined time bomb of life leaves nothing but waste.” Relationships with the female figures that flit through the poems are evanescent or vampiric: “Tight leopard-skinned skirt. / Black sexy pumps. / Bit of a flirt. / …She’ll suck the life out of you with her deadly fangs,” promises “Her Deadly Fangs.” Yet amid all the gothic visions are a few incongruously heartfelt, even conventionally spiritual poems. In “Childless,” the prospect of adoption—“There’s no special blood for a loving child”—eases the anguish of a couple “willed by God to be without,” while “Thanksgiving” offers a prayer for “Giving our strengths to those who fear.” Donovan’s verse features lacerating metaphors that veer among lyricism, grit and the cynically prosaic, as in “Cold River”: “The bridge with moss-filled initials like a funeral home’s sign-in log.” His poems are so private—even cryptic—that it’s sometimes hard to find a way into them, but the strong imagery and the emotions they convey will linger.
Dark, enigmatic, depressive verse that’s often compelling.