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Another Last Day by Alex Lemon
Milkweed Editions, 2019. 88 pages.
Reviewed by DM O’Connor


I am filled

with a blood-warm glow


spilled over

with a blood-warm glow


I am rivering I am watching

there is a hollowing-out


hunger inside me

  I could eat god

(XX)


Alex Lemon’s Another Last Day is either an 88-page poem in tight-brick couplets that construct a full life or 53 poems separated by roman numerals, like those raindrops on the red wheelbarrow, that capture quotidian epiphanies adding up to a proclamation of life. Either way, whether we dip in and dip out, or read chronologically from cover to cover, a meditation on what it means to be alive is revealed by a talented and exacting poet working at the top of his game. Not since contemplating how much depends upon that glazed red wheelbarrow, nor since studying the haiku form seriously, have I felt such a Zen-like approach to understanding the great beyond through words set conscientiously on a page. 


Another Last Day has great flow, a wild ‘rivering,’ yet feels like the constructor did not just measure twice, but an infinite number of times, and cut, over and over again, once, with unassuming confidence. The audacity and risks taken pay off a thousand-fold, leaving the muse challenged and proffering an ode to current times.   


Cornfields, baseball diamonds, zombies, catfish, steering wheels, stepladders, zippers; are anchors and omens. A swirl of Americana leaves the backyard askew. Lemon swivels from the banal mind-whispers that come when looking for a parking space, to the grandiose life-stories that flash before the closed-eye in that pre-death blink. By mining the absurd and melding with the divine, a kaleidoscope of the individual and universal is illuminated.

jellyfish

I want to kiss


each of their sick mouths

breathe into them


but there are beehives

uncrowded from


the recessed ceiling & inside

me I know I cannot stay


much longer here

no matter how I might

wish to give them

  all that I have & am.

      (XIX)



With the anchoring—jellyfish, beehive, and recessed ceiling—we are in the clouds, like fish on bicycles pedaling into the pointless sea of vague surrealism. With only the ‘wish to give them all’ and the ‘want to kiss’ and the yearning to ‘stay longer;’ feelings become untethered, in danger of floating away into what Oscar Wilde considers sentimentality (“the bank holiday of cynicism”). However, Lemon’s images are pinned to the emotion, as above, great leaps in logic can connect the gaps in synapses and the ideas, emotions, and stories that lay between the words and lines, reach epic proportions. 


Absurd and jarring, esoteric and hermetic, loyal and affirming, Lemon sees the dark twister approaching on the horizon and chooses to sing its beauty reflected in a puddle by the exit. 


The world is a terrible place

but I want it to last forever


clinging to its teeth

(LIII)


The couplets in Another Last Day are bricks that frame a necessary window; and the view is horrifying and gorgeous—an affirmation.  


I tell the stars

all the beautiful things


they cannot know


(XLVIII)

 

DAVID MORGAN O'CONNOR is from a small Canadian village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he's based in Albuquerque, where stories and poems progress daily. His writing has appeared in more than 50 print or online publications. He reviews, interviews and blogs monthly.