Poe pulls back the curtain on some desperate characters, from a gay man looking for love in the wrong places, to a tormented boy who wants to be a tiger, to a woman who’d rather die than spend another night with her violent husband.
The title, ENDINGS, will be a magnet to those who like their literature dark, with no sugar. The poems and stories focus on sadness, death, frustration, fear, and violence. Yet in the hands of a practiced craftsman, even these subjects take on dignity, and sometimes a spot of wry humor. “The Origin of the Cowboy Poem” centers on a guy named Clancy who fancies a ruffian in a black cowboy hat he meets in a bar, takes him home, only to find that the young man has two things on his mind—time and money. When the visitor leaves, his requirements satisfied, “Clancy turned on his computer, loaded a new document, and began to write” the aforementioned poem, “Cowboy Love.” In “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace” an older woman, her tiny office made increasingly smaller, finally meets her death in the cramped quarters, inhaling the fumes from a fire rather than go home to the husband she quietly despises. Poems, comprising about half of this slim volume, deal with disillusionment—over relationships, religion, even a mother’s love: “Mothers love is like a rose. When a thorn pricks the finger, the hurt is ignored at first. Then a festering begins…”
Poe (perhaps in homage to Edgar Allen) is clearly comfortable writing about melancholiacs and monsters; he has not a word out of place. He is also in his own way a social historian as, in these various offerings, he harkens back to the era of Civil Rights, the death of JFK, the Great Depression, Hurricane Katrina. The mélange of viewpoints, accents, and places shows a rare sophistication and piquancy, as in “Valéry’s Ride”, which moves its hero from New Orleans to Maryland, from flooded-out shacks to a glittering opera house, from his lonely longing for an unrestrained gay lifestyle to his deeper need to reconnect with family and heritage.
ENDINGS is a literate look at what can happen when we face, or fight, our dark desires.