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Circuit Paperback – November 4, 2010
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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For example, in his exquisitely wrought poem about sexual awakening, "Boys at Play," Holland describes two adolescents wrestling bare-chested as their newly emerging sexuality takes them suddenly from innocent play to serious grappling, ". . . rutting, pushing, over all his roughness -- / something soft gone to burning, alive, / bursting wet with surprise."
In another carefully-crafted gem, "Ativan," Holland opens the poem with the line, "Just a name for a drug - clinical - helpful," but he quickly paints a sober picture of a suffering young patient with suffering parents and suffering friends hovering about him in a hospital setting. We are subtly shown that the true Ativan of the poem isn't the calming drug, but rather the attending, silent nurse whose quick, subtle action is sadly the only possible pain-killing medication in this powerful poem.
Perhaps the most delicately poignant poem in this collection is "Gay Rights March, 1987." Here, Holland describes a chilly and chilling scene of marchers gathering in the capital city of a nation very much in denial about the AIDS plague. The narrator is doing his duty in participating in the march, but he seems to view the effort as a somewhat academic exercise until he spots a close friend, "a thin form stepping off a curb - citizen of illness," and his humanity kicks in:
. . . no honor can I give
you but this - that having held you, met, embraced
and sickly, by one kiss - as though to say goodbye -
fight on with your memory and the nation that let you die.
Holland's poems can be wistful and touching, but they are well-grounded in 21st Century reality and are written particularly from the point of view of an older gay man who has seen much, been many places, and realizes the bittersweet patina of loss time puts on all love.