Lucky Bones by Peter Meinke

lucky bonesSeries: Pitt Poetry Series Paperback: 96 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (August 6, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963108

ISBN-13: 978-0822963103

Review by Dennis Daly

Passion trumps this frivolous world of detail—Belgian chocolates, Coppertone lotion, dry martinis, bright ribbons, doubles tennis, and, heaven help us, sonnets. Peter Meinke in his new collection of poems, Lucky Bones, quantifies the passionate nature of interior intensity and hell-bent fervor by poking fun at himself and humorously (or not) eviscerating a chosen set of targets inhabiting this vale of tears that we call life. Many of his poetic commentaries Meinke delivers in formalist verse with a cunning dry wit that both elucidates and cautions.
 
The poet begins ominously with his first sectional poem entitled Drive-By Shootings. Here he sets up his backdrop and shades it with bitters. Meinke says,
 
        …People pedal on bikes drop
  Some money in the hole stick in their arms get a shot and wobble away
     Sometimes getting hit by cars the same needle all afternoon
             That’s the kind of world we live in
 
Civilization masks bloody-mindedness and boiling lust. Meinke’s piece Cassandra in the Library alludes to ancient Troy while the poet simultaneously conjures up modern academia and contemporary office life. Here’s the unpleasant heart of the poem,
 
            Poetry no wisdom withstands the test
               of blood: when mind and body clash
         the mind’s the one whose opposition’s rash
 
                        Killing liquid work’s dust
         Our craving for passion quenched by a crimson lust
 
           What can an office offer but a cursed
                 routine an inane trivial bore?
           A water cooler doesn’t slake the thirst
              of blood that rages for a taste of war
       a horde of disappointed men have dreams
    fired by bursting flares and female screams
 
The rhymes lighten the content thereby creating an odd but interesting counterpoint. I very much like this poem.
 
Skewing the Roman Catholic papacy can get old quickly and is not my cup of tea. However when a bit of compressed wit like the poem Habemus Papum nudges me I can’t resist. Habemus Papum, as announced by a cardinal from St. Peter’s Basilica after a papal election concludes, means “we have a pope.” Meinke appears to have tired of Vatican officialdom and its moribund language. He celebrates/laments in this part of the piece,
 
                        O goodum! Habemus papum
                             who’ll soon intone
                               the usual crapum
 
                        and the poor poor will weepum
 
Athletes and poets have a lot in common up to and including their need to be loved and appreciated in their own time. Unfortunately, the gods of sport and art operate on a different timeframe. In Meinke’s title poem, Lucky Bones, a tennis player of 78 years makes a great shot during a doubles game. He looks to his wife for approval as he had done as a younger man. But time has passed. Meinke concludes with pathos,
 
…his wife
 
who used to toss car keys
that flashed through light
 
like lucky bones crying Hey
         big fella think fast!
 
 And he thinks That’s
just past in my head
 
     like a re-eyed crow 
and he’s thinking Christ he
 
could still catch them if she
   were still there to throw
 
Armed with talent enough to cause the doubling up in laughter of bards and bad reviewers everywhere, Meinke takes on the sonnet in his piece Front-Rhymed Easter Anti-Sonnet. His faux attack doesn’t miss a beat. Bucking revered tradition he even removes the end rhyme scheme and transplants it at the line beginnings. The untraditional cur! Consider these pretty funny lines,
 
    … Bad enough you have to use
  words without sinking the buggers in fourteen
  lines O Shakespeare Milton what made you
  choose the? O Formalist can’t you read the
signs? O Meinke why are you writing another?
            Who’s sick of sonnets?  Iamb  Iamb 
 
For Emily Dickinson it’s all about repressed sex and mannered poetry in Meinke’s excellent parody of that poet entitled Emily Dickinson Thinks about Buying a Ribbon. There’s something about Dickinson that invites quality parody. I’m thinking of X.J. Kennedy’s Emily Dickinson in Southern California. In Meinke’s poem Dickinson debates the color of her prospective ribbon almost to the point of indecency which, of course, is the point in this astonishingly deep piece,
 
I would like to get red—
Vermillion
       But father would disapprove
 
  A serious Blue—then—worn loose
  Like a Lover’s knot
        A decent one could strangle
 
  With it—I’d have wine
       Not the barrell’d rum of Father’s
  Then—let him come—
 
Meinke takes great pleasure in self-deprecation. He gets away with it because he is that good. His poem On Completing My PHD reads like an ongoing gag, but carries with in some quite serious undertones and unasked questions. The poet concludes by rattling off his educational symptoms,
 
And I who’ve developed
  a twitch a tic a cough
 can’t tell if I am finished
    or only finished off
 
    I learned Byron had a clubfoot
      Nietzsche’s health was drastic
         Poe was a dipsomaniac
        And I’m already spastic
 
 I learned that Shakespeare really lived
        so scholars have decided
   Though quite a few have studied me
       they’re not as sure that I did
 
The poet again summons up academia in a villanelle entitled The Old Professor. Keeping their eyes on Professor Warren’s nicotine-stained teeth as he enlightens his students on New England’s luminaries can prove a didactically sound methodology. Meinke explains,
 
                                                            … Transfixed we
                        watched you grind your nubby teeth to stumps
 
                         waiting for you to spur us through our jumps
                               from Cotton Mather up through Emily
                                    Is every pilgrim happy on the bus?
 
                            We never were sure when you were serious
                                chaining your Camels unpuritanically
                        grinding your browning teeth to nubby stumps
 
                           and tossing questions far from the syllabus:
                            Would you rather live on Broad or Beacon Street?
                                    Are Smith and Bradford riding the same bus?
 
Peter Menke has been writing good, sometimes great poems for a long time. Whatever he has for breakfast I want to try. This poet’s in top form.
 .
.

Dennis Daly-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

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