Mark C. Durfee, The Line Between (St. Clair Shores, MI: Motor City Burning Press, 2010), 77 pages
This is the second collection of poetry by Mark Durfee, who regularly blogs at Walking Man. His first book, Stink, had a harder edge, as it focused mostly on life in Detroit. Although there is some of the hard edge of Durfee’s earlier book, because this book mostly deals with issues of life in the line between birth and death, the edges appear to me to have been dulled a bit. Empathy and compassion shine through Durfee’s words and images. In many places I found myself in agreement with this “man without a destination, [who] wants for little but cares for much,” (16) a man who acknowledges that in a long-life, he’s unable to give the beauty of a short–lived flower. (12) “If you wish to know me,” he writes, “then you must first know the pulsing rhythm of the psalms I sing.” Many of his poems have an ironic sense of humor such as the title of a poem (written by a self-professed smoker) “The Surgeon General should warn about karaoke.” (30) Or the line, “smart as a whip, but outta strength.” (56)
My favorite was the title poem, “The Line Between” in which Durfee writes lovingly about his grandmother who “lived beyond a century,” and lost a son to the sea during the war, and a husband thirty years before her own death. (58-60) The poem is a wonderful tribute and captures the tenderness of the love between her and her deceased husband and her family and even those with whom she shares space with in a nursing facility. The hard edge returns in the last poems as Durfee writes about the state of the economy, the lost jobs and the cost of medical care. In “A Final Act of Love,” Durfee tells of a man who has lost his job to the economy and last loving thing he can do to his family is to commit suicide, knowing his kids would qualify for a “dead man’s Social Security.” (66-67) It’s heartbreaking to acknowledge that there are people feel forced into such decisions…
Don’t look for this book in your local bookstore as you won’t find it there. But for ten bucks you can purchase a copy (shipping including) from the author. Check out his website.