A Black Wave Cometh by Scott Thomas Outlar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This collection does not waver far from its paranoid and delusional persona that is caught in a loop, revisiting and reinterpreting scenes from Genesis, especially Eden, and Revelations. Sometimes, the speaker is Adam, a man scorned and unforgiving of Eve, who lacks perspective or any personal ownership of culpability. At other times, the snake, Adam, and Eve all blur together in shared damnation. In yet another poem, “New Chapter, New Verse,” an owl does away with the snake and a new history can unfold.
The screech owl
eyeing its prey from a position of stealth
Spreads its wings like an angel of death
Makes its graceful move
Dive bombs without mercy
Engulfs the snake, swallowing it whole
Flies back to the garden
Lands in the Tree of Life
Nests for the night near the ripe fruit
Laughs off all temptation
Mocks sin during its glorious dreams
Wakes to soar again
The collection explores a virtual multi-verse of Falls of Eden and Apocalypses of Revelations, or perhaps they are cycles of doomed starts that lead to doomed ends. The embodiment of starts and ends, the phoenix, also makes multiple appearances throughout. Questions of evolution’s struggle for survival also lingers as a theme, not as the antithesis of the Genesis story, but as its medium.
[from “Do Us Part”]
There is no give and take.
It is all ripped away
one loved one at a time
from the beginning to the end.
One particularly nice moment arises in the middle of the collection when three consecutive poems hinge on the same image. First “Bay Bridge” opens with “Salvation can come / in the strangest forms– / a three dollar bottle / of cheap wine . . .” “Wobbling Perspective” heightens the intoxication. “Even when you think / you are drunk / to the point / of toppling over / with a glass / still in your hand, / you can / pull yourself together, / get control / of the situation, / take a deep breath, / put everything / in perspective . . .” Finally, “Karma Sheet” injects the time element into the binge. “Down to the last sip– / a cheap white wine, / but what’s new? / Two months of heavy drinking– / every swallow worth the weight / placed in the floated whale liver.”
The sobriety never lasts or even fully gets settled. The paranoia rears in prolonged visions of personified death, sometimes in the form of a reaper, or a passing flock of birds. In the latter poem, “The Swarm”, the line breaks and descriptions of a moving flock of blackbirds is quite astute.
[from “The Swarm”]
Blackbirds envelop the green grass
across the street
early in the morning,
moving together in a cluster of fluttering wings.
I shift my position in bed
to gain a better view,
now squatting and looking out the window
as the dark wave gains a new tide
and comes shrieking and soaring as one blanket mass
straight toward me.
For a brief moment I fear
the yawning grave is finally calling me
back to the dust, dirt and ash
from whence I once came,
but then, in unison, the wave breaks,
the aggressive wings grow calm, and
the swarm settles down
as it lands now in my front yard . . .
Steeped so heavily in biblical allusion (and to a lesser extent in mythos), this collection is reminiscent of the long poems of the early 1900s such as Ezra Pound in The Cantos. However, those long poems still tended to reference real world events and locations. That essential grounding does not happen here, which is ultimately disappointing.
I received this chapbook directly from Dink Press and Kristopher D. Taylor for the purpose of reviewing it.
[Check out my other reviews here.]