There is a light that never goes out

Post image for There is a light that never goes out

by horrorsleazetrash on October 15, 2010

There’s A Fist Dunked In Blood Beating In My Chest
by Rob Plath
179 pages
$15.50 + $4.50 shipping
Epic Rites Press

A review of Rob Plath’s ‘There’s a fist dunked in blood beating in my chest’
by Zack Wilson

Reading Rob Plath has often reminded me of the Ramones – booze driven repetitive riffing and a knowing insouciance posing as deliberate dumbness often infuriating simplistic but never, ever pointless and capable of killer insight.

This collection delivers more of that grinding same but also new, and welcome, subtleties. If you’re looking for variety of language, flowery metaphors and a crippling embarrassing self-conscious ‘outlaw’ pose, then there’s thousands of mediocrities cramming themselves into that particularly well-stuffed niche at the moment. Plath is still more leather jackets, stark, short lines, New York nights and urban despair, usually, and there’s certainly plenty of that in this packed volume, but there’s also more. There’s love here, all over these poems actually, and, tellingly, loss.

The poet of this collection ruminates upon love and death through different prisms. A mother’s mortality, a lover’s infidelity and a growing awareness that even evil bastard fathers had their reasons. Much of the poetry here speaks of sparks in the darkness, honest appraisals of the reality of love to individuals. The couple sit “marrow to marrow” in ‘to hell w/ all the so-called cities of love’, not heart to heart. This is love stripped down by desperation and, more often than not, cigarette smoke. There is an
often-occurring contradictory desire for the burning brilliance of life-affirming love, even if Plath spends much of his time raking the ashes in a grey morning rather than watching the fireworks burn against a blue-black sky.

Sex and cigarettes may not seem much to some, but to Plath they are the very bones around which life is constructed. Blow jobs and the “cannibal” smoke of cigars mask a desperate celebration of love. Even in the humorous list of unpleasant symptoms caused by love in ‘Love’ there is an acceptance that “testicular shrinkage, hypersensitivity, extended bouts of weeping,/ wheezing, chain-smoking, excessive use of alcohol or other/ recreational drugs, driving while intoxicated” are maybe worth going through for the tiny moments love promises, and the fear it brings. Love leads to apocalypse, according to ‘this dark dance of replication’ after all, and death is merely ‘unmagic’.

Plath is Old Man Winter, content in his cold smoke and wise in his cynicism, but with a spark of regret that burns as brightly as his Zippo when he thinks of the last (always the last) time he touched his first lover. Betrayal and infidelity lurk like sharks in a tank, biting off the poet’s
fingernails now and then, as the smoking signifiers at the foot of each page turn into mini meditations on self-torture, eyeballs and cheese graters, morgue slabs and mothers about to die.

But this Plath is a witty old chap sometimes, as in ‘brief letter from a cheating ex’ – it’s this that we really like, bitter ruminations on the stupidity of people with no comment passed just the plain bones of their idiocy exposed. Laughter as best medicine for death. “i was head over heels/ for her/ but she preferred heels/ over head” as he puts it. ‘Instead of a love poem’ has crows on a freeway pecking a squirrel’s corpse, almost a reworking of the old Scots poem ‘The Twa’ Corbies’ as the scavengers triumph once again with their “horrible hop(s).”

Meditations upon his mother’s mortality and the passage of life and time produce moments of genuine poignancy though. The poem as list may have been done to death but Plath shows lesser craftsmen how it should be done in ‘what my mother was dreaming while anaesthetized in/ order to get her left hip replaced’. Indeed, Plath speaks of his mother a lot in this collection, as though as her own aging process has allowed him to understand his own mortality more clearly, and in much more humanistic terms as he meditates upon “love/or the lack of it” and takes what he claims is a pessimistic delight in falling leaves.

There is no life without death, after all, and this book may just be the light that never goes out being switched on. Then again, it might just be someone sparking up a ciggy…

Buy the madman here.

Previous post:

Next post: