The poems at the center of Black Boot are often sweeping, elegiac narratives, told from the point of view of an apparently omniscient character or narrator who usually speaks in the first person or like they are writing sophisticated, honest diary entries. When you enter the bright lights of this journal, you will meet an amalgam of characters who, whether melancholy, happy or otherwise, are reflecting on something or someone integral to their past identities.
“Things to Do” by Steve Abee is a comprehensive grocery list of profound and simple tasks that one should complete while trying to live. Here, the author mixes serious goals with the satirical to great effect: “Get up in the morning and then go back to sleep, pull her close to me, / fall down into the warm sea of her breath. It’s true, / it is that deep.” This piece is a tribute to the ability to be simultaneously positive and self-deprecating about life’s truths.
In the fragmented confines of Deja Gworek’s “Shadow,” we are given a sobering account of life as a foster child: "eruptions of fire from a dragon’s mouth. ducking, running, hiding, lying. broken limbs, broken / dreams, broken hearts, broken homes. some dumb ass from my last school told me, 'better / broken than none at all.'” This quote addresses the hurtful and ambiguous realities of a being a foster child with dexterity and power as well as the dramatic memories associated with it.
Often, the poems in this issue take on the contradictions of our self-referential culture. In “I’m in a band called ‘My Name’s Joe,’” by John Maurer, the subject matter is both serious and satirical in its take on the world at large. “Fuck all your notions / about other people’s emotions / you can’t even understand yourself. Get out of my way, / my name is Joe; / I’m never confused for somebody else. / quoting the latest / in today’s pop psychology, / you’ll lecture me on life; / like pulling a rabbit / out of your hat.” This seems to comment on the self-help woe-is-me culture often associated with America, and consequently addresses the warped sense of often irrational self determination that goes along with these stereotypes.
Lastly, in the hilariously titled “One Mile Per Hour Faster Than The Speed of Light (Or Suck it Einstein)” by Mindy Nettifee, the narrator refutes Einstein’s theories about the speed of light, offering up her own conclusions: “I don’t care what the geniuses say. / I know about chance. // I believe there must be one ambitious photon who made it, at least one particle of light / that remembered the secret to charming barriers.” Here, possibility comes into question, that no one has an exclusive patent on the truth or that other ‘truths' can also be viewed as probabilities.
In Black Boot’s contours, its quirky brand of everyman honesty tangles you in a web of self-affirmation and refutation, poems and prose that tackle the contradictions and truths of its subject matter or narrators with equal aplomb. You will try on these boots and you will feel cool for a while, like a badass cowboy in a Clint Eastwood movie; the only difference being, that despite the honesty of your words, your words will be like monologues or soliloquies delivered with an urgency so genuine and relatable, you will keep reading and listening until it is finished.