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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

David O'Meara's Noble Gas, Penny Black

Charlotte St.

So much the same, we fight to be different,
facing the close walls of this dark apartment
on Charlotte Street. The dry, white day
is draped outside our kitchen window,
where a tree rattles, bare as a coat hanger.
We’re sad but willing to believe all the rumours
of a simple spring. The cold-encased street,
the slushy-messy street, the snowy street…
Two more weeks to another insufficient paycheque,
our patience cracking like an ice pack;
then up half the night laughing, the last
kids with the lights left on.
How fast a month goes when you can't make rent,
how mean the restaurants look, how hard
everything seems, remembering fun
but too stretched to share it.
I'll wait, and wait, and walk with you endlessly.
Let's ditch this city, these jobs, all the bother
of having things, and keep only each other.

An interesting sentiment for Ottawa poet David O'Meara from his third collection of poetry, Noble Gas, Penny Black (London ON: Brick Books, 2008), especially considering that soon after this collection arrived back from the printer in mid-August, he and his partner left the continent for six months of extended European travel. A follow-up of his first two collection, Storm still (Carleton University Press, 1999) and The Vicinity (Brick Books, 2003), O'Meara's newest is a collection of relatively straight-lined poems written as documentary; there are some extremely fine moments, but at but seventy-two pages, why does this collection appear so thin? Do we demand too much now from poetry collections as far as page count?

O'Meara's strengths [read the interview Stephen Brockwell did with him in the fourth issue of ottawater, by the by] come from his documentary approach, writing the poem as meditation, as narrative, writing the poem as thoughtful small essays written as stories, instead of otherwise messing about with the language, and include odd opening lines such as "Japan was weird." (repeating the same from the title), and the magnificent opening lines of the opening poem that reads in full:

The Next Day

You turned forty all afternoon,
and with every hour's drink you poured,
you aged. The thought was fuel; your mind roared
like a fire, like a starved sun

eating its core, making a feast
of the fears that remained. But the next day arrived,
and you were safe, and sane; not in the least
surprised you'd lived.

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