So let's visit the Empire State Building together! Pappas's book starts with an "Invitation" to homemade organic pancakes sprinkled with blackberries picked in the rain. I'm in! The second poem, "Creation," creates the [poet's] world and the theme of falling via "the man across the street / who fell off a ladder / to the cement sidewalk." (This reminded me of the guy who fell off our roof and broke both wrists, repairing our home after a house fire, a fact we learned much later from the neighbors, as we were living elsewhere during the repair. I hope compassion after the fact still counts!)
Here are Jimmy Pappas's "four Noble Truths:"
Life is suffering. People fall
off ladders. Love ends.
Nothing has any meaning.
The title poem is a father poem, and also repeats an urban legend. There are unsentimental and deeply human tributes to stepmother and mother, noting "the massive indifference of the universe" and a plethora of shoes. A father poem of love and guilt, deathbed poems of pure love for various people, a lovely poem where his sister, ready to die, signs, "Sleep."
She took the open palm of her right hand
and dragged it down her face. Sleep. Sleep.
I, too, would have let her sleep. And then, in "Mourning," taking the poet Sappho's advice, Jimmy Pappas keeps
for my next
A poet's gotta do what a poet's gotta do. And that takes me back to The Poetry of Strangers again, something Brian Sonia-Wallace says in one of his own unsentimental poems, how he's
always rooting for the monsters
who are at least honest
to themselves, at least
not pretending altruism.