A Series of Small Boxes
Fish Drum Press, 2007
Cover art by Abby Winson
Sad, witty, “severely clear,” (in his phrase), Thomas Devaney memorializes urban shadows and love modes, sometimes stepping out of the frame to contemplate the picture that he partly imagined partly discovered. The poems are resonant patches of serious life, almost as buoyant as dreams. Their light graces remain etched in the mind.
These are poems fit to the speed of a bicycle. Bicycles travel at the speed of American folk-rock and lyrical ballads; so do these poems. They are vulnerable, pleasurable, tolerant, wary and contemporary. They don’t complain, but watch where they’re going. Incessant pauses are inevitable when a poet has one foot on the ground and the rest of him is thinking all over the place.
A Series of Small Boxes brings together poems that Tom Devaney’s avid readers have been delightedly reading and hearing for months and years. “Trying to live as if it were morning” is by now for some of us almost totemic, the digressive and quiet (yet also an audacious) theme song for the writer who lives now—right here—in the writing. To read these poems is to discover in language the alternative to the big lumbering ships that can’t turn fast enough in “Obi-Wan Kenobi”: headlong, free, willing to move any new way quickly, clambering in the song and dance of poetic possibility.
- Reviewed by Alan Gilbert in The Believer (PDF)
- Reviewed by Jon Emile Vincent in Jacket
- Reviewed by Kevin Killian
from A Series of Small Boxes
There are lines from movies
That can ruin your life, is a line,
You say, that could ruin your life.
But was your life already ruined,
Or a ruin like Rome? Ashes, grass
And a see-through gown.
I’ve already ruined enough lines
Not to get this one right.
Yet I’ve always loved Rome,
The name, that is, not the city,
Which I also love in a way one can love
A city one has loved and been loved in
Because it enters you, in a way, as you walk,
Buy stamps, tell time.
No, for me that isn’t Rome,
That is Roma, ages ago, and forgotten.
Or studied and false, though
Comprehensive seeming, a compendium
Of soft brassy light on that providential stone.
But never the single syllable
Swallowed whole, nor its multi-syllabic twins:
Forcible Romulus, clandestine Remus —
Quick Bear Poem
Was that a bear? The darker part
of the dark in the trees.
Should we go back, keep going?
Out of the corner of the eye,
or the eye itself?
It wasn’t the “Bears in the Trashcans”
of the evening news;
nor the darkly handsome one upright and wet,
fishing on Public Television, as far as we can tell.
Black dot vanishing to the black underfur.
The retina is alive to its widest sphere.
How we do and don’t chase
the night’s black thunder.
In the sharp and grassy swiftness,
the upper reaches of the canopy whoosh
as nighttime particles swarm in a sudden light,
and other luminous reflectors dot and dart
on the road up ahead.