Days of Destruction

Mary Celeste Press, Australia, formerly Skive Press, is reissuing ‘Days of Destruction.’

This Good Life

What is the hunger of water-falls
for little men in tiny boats,
flirting with alluring whirlpools,
who lie on crowded Sunday beaches
dreaming of vacations in the winter,
burdened by cameras that seek
Palm Beach condos,
Fort Lauderdale motels,
Miami hotels.
The tourists sleep late, swim,
drive on across an aging land,
veined with highways of destruction,
submerged with cities of corrosion,
skeletoned by crumbling towns and farms,
and always arteries of roads, roads, roads,
coursing its people like blood
through a diseased body,
until one day
the price of oil
ends our way.


A derelict woman with tangled hair,
unkempt shirt, open pants, peeling skin,
stabs her hand through the night at me,
rattling a grimy paper cup,
urgently demanding money.
She refuses to sink into the pavement
and disrupts my prosperous transit
through this insecure world.
A glimpse of her unzipped flesh
beckons violent visions
of mindless sex, vicious rape.
Helpless to alter her destiny,
my lack of power
sends my hand to my pocket
seeking coins to oblivion.

In Another Land, Lost

In the Bahnhof waiting room,
too poor to buy a ticket,
awakened from kindly dreams
by the harsh hands of the police
pulling me off the slumber table,
shoving me out of the darkened restaurant,
mumbling, stumbling, tranced,
into the chill Dusseldorf night,
bowed by sagging shoulders,
dulled almost beyond continuation,
swaying, sniffling, drained of fervor,
only avoiding collapse
with the hope of warm refuge.

I am homeless this night,
my fears the same as others,
the arrival of tomorrows.
Where will we go,
o enemies of the morning?
Shall we meet again?
Perhaps tomorrow night,
heads couched on arms, dirtier,
owning only sad enchantments.
Shall I be the last inventor,
or have I more to surrender?
If I survive the perils of daylight,
I shall stay awake all evening,
blinking greetings at strangers,
rigid with protests and yearnings,
trapped in spittle and droolings,
tobaccoed and tarnished,
once again lifeless lumps
inert upon the tables,
trapped between sleep and death.

Ignored by all except authority
babbling to anyone who listens,
I see another homeless creature
cautiously stir and peer about,
gently shaking his tiny wife awake.
They look at each other.
 I see you, stranger
a moment in this bitter life
and ebb away, drifting….Nowhere….

In the Bahnhof waiting room
I have become lost,
waiting for nothing.

The talented editor/publisher of Calliope Nerve Magazine arranged for a review of ‘Days of Desstruction’ by the very fine poet Connie Stadler.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Constance Stadler Reviews Gary Beck’s Days of Destruction

Caliope Nerve Magazine

Review of “Days of Destruction” Gary Beck, Skive Magazine Press
In the beginning of his book Days of Destruction, Gary Beck, begins with a quotation of Baudelaire from “Parfum Exotique”:

While the perfume of the green tamarinds,
that permeates the air, and elates my nostrils,
Is mingled in my soul with the sailors’ chanteys
It is a gorgeous quote, but it is from the young Baudelaire and is vague, non-specific. This seems a metaphor for the entire collection, beauty, wisdom and yet, a disconnect. While there is no question Beck is a talented, lyrical poet, a committed humanist and a concerned American, the mixing of rapturous beauty is not twined with the song of the maritime bargeman. There is also the question of thematic repetition, which dilutes the strength of what is often a clarion call that needs to be heard.

Beck rails about social injustice, the inhumane, our forged inhumanity, class and other human bifurcations with power and a towering voice. In the first poem of the text, “Prisons”, the poet takes a powerful stand against the institutionalization of the marginalized, the children who do not have a “vote” or “machine fueling funds”, and thus no systemic “worth”:

The citizens of our country
demand more prisons for our kids.
Fund them, build them, staff them, run them,
then everyone will make money.
For those who dream philosophy
we’ll teach them true economics:
there’s no profit in prevention,
nor in rehabilitation.
We see this cry echoed in the poignant “Lost Children”:

Far from the comfort of churches,
they could not find an open door,
or what’s normal now in cities,
the priest couldn’t help them anymore.
Now lost to the comforts of home,
abandoned by their family,
they huddle in prisons or shelters,
convicted, condemned to poverty.
And, again, in “Who Careth for…”:

Yet somebody caused these kids
to trespass beyond forgiveness.
You swear it wasn’t you,
but it had to be someone.
All those kids didn’t get up one morning
and suddenly commit horrible crimes.
So it must be me,
’cause if it wasn’t you….
The realties of America as global hegemon posturing as THE leader of the Free World as well as all that is good and true, has many manifestations in this compilation.

As in “Sliding to Tomorrow”:

I walk down rubbled streets,
Beirut, Bombay, and Baghdad,
hated by young and old,
Black, White, Hispanic, poor,
alike in resentment
for my brief visit
to the museum of squalor…

…But then I suddenly realize
this is not a third world nightmare,
we’re in America,
declining to decay,
since no one knows enough
to stop the fall.
And in the brilliant “The Conquest of Somalia”, where personification is used to perfection and with deep affect:

Mogadishu, Mogadishu,
you have almost been forgotten
by our leaders who sent soldiers
( seeking glorious victories )
to patrol your poor, dusty streets
and tremble in the rains of evening
from tropical disease, or fear,
dazed by one more unclear mission,
dumped on our obedient troops,
ordered to build a quick triumph,
so D.C. strutters and prancers
could boast their boasts and brag their brags
that the administration kicked ass.
The “rationality” of American foreign policy is decimated in the final stanza:

So we were tortured by tse-tse’s,
mutilated by mosquitos,
made delirious with desire,
polluted and prostituted,
then we were driven mad by you,
our treacherous Mogadishu.
It is in stanzas like these where Beck’s proclivities with language shine. However a major issue of this text, thematic repetition, is also exemplified if we are to look at poems of a very similar nature such as:

“Truce inIraq”:

…why did we spend so much,
to kill so many,
with such little concern,
when we’re going to do it again?
And “Ruler”:

The tyrant has many servants…

He will never be merciful
and will not let us defy him,
so we must be cautious
in the elevation
of elected leaders.
The shame of America is destitution of its own people is given frequent voice:

This is pummeled home in “Neglect”:

Too many Americans ignore the world of chaos
and forget the men who hold the buttons
that will ignite atomic weapons
that never stop longing for fission.
We sit in the comfort of home,
newspapered, TV’d and dreamy,
neglectful of our friends and foes,
“In the Decay of Cities”:

America, the proud and free
once the world’s praises sang of thee.
Now as hated as Rome or Athens,
we have frayed the hope of liberty.
And in the clever “Ruminations”:

O say can you see
how the bureaucracy
makes it harder and harder
to replenish the larder.
The blame is not simply government it is our inculcated inhumanity, our benign neglect, in “Hotel” a man suddenly comes to terms with the source of his nightmare of horror:

Morning did not come too soon.

I rinsed my face, combed my hair,
picked up my bags, went to the door,
rode the aromatic elevator
to the lobby of release.
I only paused to ask the clerk,
who looked as harsh as famine,
what changed things since last year.
As I went out the door of reprieve
he yelled that it had recently become
a hotel for the homeless.
And “Beggar” is a fine explication of how we can live with ourselves:

A glimpse of her unzipped flesh
beckons violent visions
of mindless sex, vicious rape.
Helpless to alter her destiny,
my lack of power
sends my hand to my pocket
seeking coins to oblivion.
There are other interrelated themes such as how the digital age has ripped out more than a piece of our souls, and how impervious we are to the inevitable destruction of other people and the planet. The work is so thematically driven, that a piece such as “To Baudelaire”, and the weariness of love’s frustrations and disappointments (“Odium”) seem almost aberrant.

One must in the final assessment ask who is Gary Beck writing this for? If the American public, apolitical and largely unacquainted with political art, this may well find resonance in the discordance/rage/concern raised. But for readers of post-modern verse, much of this is a hallowing of self-evident truths. Indeed, much poetry today is premised on the knowledge in Beck’s verse as seminal backdrop.

Constance Stadler is the author of Tinted Steam (Shadow Archer) and Sublunary Curse (Erbacce) and the Review Editor for Calliope Nerve. Gary Beck’s poetry has appeared in dozens of literary magazines. His chapbook Remembrance was published by Origami Press. Another chapbook The Conquest of Somalia was published by Cervena Barva Press. His collection Days of Destruction is published by Skive Press. His plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been produced off-Broadway. “Days of Destruction” is available at

Posted by Nobius at 12:15 PM

Labels: Constance Stadler, Gary Beck, review


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