This issue of Thin Air opens with a hilarious poem about fire, which, by rights, shouldn’t be funny at all. But Matthew J Spireng’s poem “In Case of Fire” will have you smiling by its end. Spireng writes,
Outside the room on the hallway
a metal-sided glass-front case
on the wall bears sticker with instructions
In case of fire break glass. Nothing more
to suggest to the literal-minded, those who
follow instructions to the letter, that they
should consider removing the extinguisher
inside and using it, and nothing to suggest
how one is to break the glass without
slicing one’s arm on the jagged edges
The rest of the poem is just as funny, but I don’t want to spoil your fun by copying the entire poem verbatim.
I also thoroughly enjoyed W. Todd Kaneko’s three poems. Here is a poet who appears to have an almost-magical grip on the intricacies of language. In “The Heart of Saturday Night,” he begins by talking about his remembrance of his teenaged, alcohol-filled years: “This is Saturday night, when / the boulevard is bursting with the blood / of youth, their cars stereos too – and I don’t know / the words to every song, can’t even fake it / like I used to.” It’s a not unfamiliar romp through those formative years, and I couldn’t help smiling as he closes the poem with,
Come over to the house where
we have a rickety porch and a fifth of something
wicked. It’s always Saturday night here
where we listen to wind chimes jangling,
keep the lights dim for fireflies, and always drink from the bottle.
Kaneko’s transition from childhood to adulthood is seamless, and I couldn’t help but appreciate his writing. In Kaneko’s poem, “The Astronomers,” the writer cannot help but release himself from the profundity and throw himself into the levity. For it is with “The Astronomers” that he truly shines:
Look. The last time we studied the moon,
I was looking at venues, and you said David Bowie is our new name for Pluto,
that the Pleiades are now
the Spiders from Mars. I pointed a red star swimming backwards near the horizon
because you confessed your love for fat
Elvis and other people’s horoscopes.
I’ve never caught a rabbit, and you
don’t know the North Star from the Dog
This is the only flash of true humor in the poem, and yet it had me smiling through the entire piece. It’s brilliant.
Josh Bettinger’s three poems appear within Thin Air’s pages, but it was the first of the three that caught my eye. With “Under Tungsten Lamp,” he composed a lovely poem: “Night flirts in the afternoon trees / with dull leaves blanched by an orchid moon. / The topmost edges of the city are a tiara / stained blue by lights that swagger & drive / on the river’s wake.”
The prize of most surreal must go to Matt Schumacher for his poem “The Children of Electric Fires.” In this poem, Schumacher writes that the children
Bear rings which electrocute bride and groom.
Demand flames emblazoned in lapels of angels.
Whisper of sleeping rooms where tousled,
Nameless drunks spontaneously combust.
Bathe in rivers of invisible lightning inside walls and hide
Under carpets with torched horizons of Sonaran dusks.
Finger ignitable liquid containers with the worst,
Destructive sort of nervousness
It’s surreal, as I’ve said, but also so much more than that.
I also completely enjoyed Sean Brendon-Brown’s “Fish Shop, Pike Place.” When he writes, “without faith & self-esteem / this world is a burning village, / a tattered wife crying / you’re wrong, don’t go, wait, / let me help you, don’t go,” I felt a palpable sadness for the wife, desperately trying to stave off the inevitable. It’s writing at its best
Along with the stories, poems, and drawings, there are a few book reviews. One of the reviews, written by Erica Jones, is for Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope, is particularly poignant: “But the power of the book goes beyond the words printed between the covers. While the essays and poems are moving enough to inspire interest in the book, the story of its coming into existence warrants attention as well.” I will leave it to you, dear reader, to find out about the book’s creation, but it is also my hope that you’ll pick up Thin Air because of my own review of its creativity. It may be named This Air, but the stories and poems here will stay with you long after you’ve brought the covers to a close.