Matt Schumacher's first collection of poetry is an otherworldly journey of linguistic inventiveness that keeps you directly on this earth while simultaneously transporting you to locations that at first glance appear strange or surreal but become familiar once you peer into their profound insides. These poems make up a cosmic parade where you will meet cowboys from Venus, pizzas that fly and ghosts who haunt spaceships. Ultimately, these poems are about the redemption of humanity in spite of the obstacles you have to overcome and the distances you must travel to arrive at familiar, yet alien, destinations. The poem “Old West Town Discovered on Venus” takes the reader on a journey to one of these planets:
No moon. Not even one saloon.
Poison sunrise in the west.
Pressure hissing like a rattler underfoot.
Better wear your hat brim low,
Because the sun alone will kill you.
It’s a town better kept
At the far end of the telescope,
Left to a ruffled sheriff who’d given up long ago,
Who’d be the first to mutter lawless hellhole,
But here you are, chasing tumbleweeds
And imagining sage amidst these dried-up seas,
Dreaming of rodeos
In “The Ghost Ship Chronicles,” Schumacher delivers an epic narrative poem, set on a ship of the dead where the crew does not seem entirely aware of their predicament. Are they alive or dead or in some kind of limbo where souls are forced to roam endlessly? In part IV of the poem, the ghosts revisit the paradox of the ocean as they first viewed it:
Today the ship’s deck parted like a cloud
And the world appeared crystalline again
As it was in the beginning:
The ocean, a deepening mystery,
The sky, tranquil and cerulean,
The bright and forthright invitation of the sun
The ship rushing forward aboard sparkling waves
For the horizon, a mosaic of auspicious fire
Painted by great angels blowing in our sails.
Each face expressed a serene, fearless bliss.
This moment I hold frozen in mind
For that instant I most dread,
The time my very eyes must disappear.
Poems like this show just some of Schumacher's many capabilities in this daring and absurdly serious collection, which has its many subjects ensconced in singularly human mythologies that are not merely tales but adventures of transcendence and redemption. The main point of these narratives is to make the reader or the character within its confines see what has been seen before in a different way and be better for the experience. Mathew Schumacher's poetry challenges the reader to imagine a rich, dreamy world where the improbable is never impossible, and the impossible is brought to life by the author, a puppet master with convincing zeal for all that is alien about being human.