cover image Sesame


Jack Marshall. Coffee House Press, $11.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-015-1

Marshall's circuitous lines and meticulously selected words hit their target dead center while readers are still caught up in the atmosphere he so beautifully paints. In a poem about a ceramic lamb salvaged from a loved one's effects, for example, he spends most of the time describing the sky seen through the window while the real subject--the return to the speaker's childhood home--gracefully slips in. Many of these pieces were inspired by the Gulf War, but unlike other recent poetry on the subject, these draw upon Marshall's ( Arabian Nights ) Muslim/Jewish heritage. It's summed up by the words he gives to a nameless Istanbul woman speaking to newscasters: ``we have our own Mideast/ crisis at home.'' Marshall transports readers into a prophetic world where ``a bed/ is also a door'' and a father can turn on the television and watch his son's plane being shot down. Vividly, graphically, he exposes war as the egotistical tool of the few who encourage others to die for them. Even work in a canning factory becomes a battle zone as workers lose fingers in machinery. Revolving around a 14-page poem recalling a mother's life and death, these poems set an elegiac mood, their speakers not so much mourning loss as attempting to get on with their own lives. The poet manages to keep a slow, measured pace, even when the message is urgent. (Nov.)