The ghosts of movie stars, shoe store monkeys, ex-wives, Chet Baker and reckless road trips populate David J. Thompson’s Even the Fallen, the 2007 winner of the Nerve Cowboy Chapbook Contest. A two year in a row winner of the contest, Thompson revisits much of the subject matter of his last offering Outliving Elvis, albeit with a fuller, fleshed-out feel for characterization and language.
These are distinctively masculine poems, with the lives of men revealed with scars and all. Many deal with aging and memory. In the poem “Face It” Thompson drives back from a Christmas party attended by some former students just starting out in life. “You tell yourself that you/were an idiot then, just another/twenty year-old asshole dreamer/with a lot to learn. Maybe, you think/you should have said something/to those kids tonight, something wise/about dreams and time, but, face it, /you don’t know what the hell/it would have been.” As Jack Kerouac once said, “All I have to offer is my own confusion.” Thompson’s poems are deceptive in their seeming simplicity and casual voice, but like a Raymond Carver poem, there is often more going on than a quick first read might reveal. The poems are chuckle-inducing, unsettling, wistful, and disarming in their candor. Thompson offers up the lives of men either holding middle-age and marriage at bay such as an adulterous basketball camp coach and a nicotine-addicted teacher, or simply surrendering to their situations by way of cable television and road trip memories as in the poem “All That’s Left” where a group of friends solemnly conclude a night of reminiscing. “They finish/their beers in one long, warm swallow, and give/soft high fives across the table. Now, all that’s left/is the short ride home on familiar streets to wives/and children and lawns to mow in the morning/with no more stories to tell.”
No more stories, that is, until Thompson’s next book.