A Tragedy of American Proportions in Verse
Open this collection, so beautifully adorned with unimaginable blue clouds, and slip into a vacuum of unrelenting sadness. This sadness is not colored beige or “…crystal-blue automatic…” but is a sound. Not just any sound at that but a wretched sob forever interrupted and repeated, curling in lonely kitchens and sloshing around empty dog bowls, “…an eternal echo, / sobbing / against itself.” Sucker Hole, published in 2018 through Cholla Needles Press, is a compelling poetic, near ghostly journey, by John Sierpinski. It has all the makings of a great American novel condensed into poems.
The collection begins with an explanation by the speaker of what a sucker hole is. Simply put, it is a moment of light in the sky. “You really think / the rain is over.” Then dismal clouds muscle their way back over the sky. There is a sense of fated doom here that fits into the American tapestry. “Some days, it just / feels like the last day at the / end of the line,” the speaker confides. As if he were Dante, the speaker then leads his readers closer to the mouth of this wailing poetry.
As they continue on their trek of verse, readers will encounter the horrid Christmas nights filled with slovenly drunk mothers and fathers, they will bear witness to the final moments of a canine friend, and through it all they will be silently accompanied by a despair carried in the “…lunging, pissing, / gray wind.” Sierpinski’s strength lies in his capability to layer these aching moments in such a manner that they become a “…pockmarked path…” which draws the readers further along to view all the intricacies of his poetry, the “…cracks, dry / weeds, early ice, and dust of premature snow.” Once inside Sucker Hole, time is an irrelevant construct. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday merge…” as the speaker presses readers onward. It is near impossible to escape until reading the book’s closing lines.
Sierpinski’s writing style will compel readers to “…dive in / again and again…” despite there being “…no God this day, / there is no God yesterday / there is no God tomorrow…” Though it could very easily become fatalistic, even nihilistic poetry, Sierpinkski steers his work away from these bleak shorelines with a deft hand. His poems, while they are resigned to their own fate, seek out something more for others. Although the “…dog is gone / (not to return), parents (years gone), children / gone, lover many miles away,” the speaker is still able to raise a toast to “…the children…/…the / Birds and oblivion, here’s to / Waking up when least expected”. These poems have not given up. There is still some life within ready to burn the “…union busters, the one-percenters / the golden parachuters…”
Sucker Hole is written for “…members of an anonymous / group, those who know a certain kind of pain,” but even those outside that club who simply enjoy well crafted poetry with thoroughly plotted structures will find themselves sucked into Sierpinski’s work.
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