cover image Durable Goods

Durable Goods

Suzanne Matson. Alice James Books, $9.95 (70pp) ISBN 978-1-882295-00-5

Matson's specialty is writing about strangers: a woman selling flowers on a railroad platform, a toddler whose destitute father swats her in a bus station, a heavyset Italian boy playing ball. The shadowy figures who inhabit these poems are as unfamiliar to the speaker as they are to the reader, but the poet's deft eye catches them mid-stride at the moment of decision, resulting in poems that are wholly accessible. Everyone is in flux here--boating, walking, driving, carried in a bus or train. Such movement might be fatal, but at least we didn't just sit there, Matson ( Sea Level ) implies; we did something with our lives. Even the speaker with nothing to do but wait is ``padding around the room, checking the mirror again.'' A sense of overpowering doom spreads through this volume, whether it involves three boys lost at sea or a POW bracelet the speaker wore for a boy whose name she can't remember. Interspersed with such loss is a kaleidoscope of possibilities, epitomized by the wedding couple presumably looking forward to the rest of their lives. The overall impression is one of intimacy, poet and reader taking a long, hard look, as if the Other were a constant mirror. (Oct.)