Reviewed by Elvis Alves
The Moon in the Pool
by Gary Metras
68 pages, paperback, ISBN: 978-9888279-7-4, $12.95
Gary Metras’ The Moon in the Pool is a small book that packs a big poetic punch. Metras makes something out of what appears to be nothing at first sight. Mundane items, such as stones or the sight of an old man, serve as inspiration for Metras. It is not surprising, then, that Metras has ten other books under his belt. The Moon in the Pool is the work of a seasoned poet, a writer accustomed to having his way with words. But there is more to these poems; they make us what we already are. In other words, they tap into our shared humanity.
“Seven Stones for Seven Poems” is the first poem in the collection. It serves to draw one into the atmosphere of the text. Each stone demarcates a specific event in the writer’s life. The stones are used as a timeline and mechanism that goad our emotions. A good example of this is when the writer reminisces about finding under a stone, “a salamander/dark as the bottom of stagnant pools/a salamander curled around/two infants so small/I strain to see if they had legs/ and they do/I stood there//a fleshy mountain of a god/deciding what happens next”(12). This stanza is one of tragic beauty and suspense. From a theistic sense, it points to being assailed by the whims of life, in light of God’s existence. One can say that there is a human face to the salamanders because most people, if not all, seem to be at the mercy of an external authority when sick (including when it is our body that is turning against us). Relief from suspense comes when “the stone slipped and fell/to squished earth”(12). The salamanders lived. So, too, do some of us—with scars and all.
In a piece entitled “Portrait of a Stranger”, Metras creates the story of an old man “with Asia in his eyes” that he encounters “in the concrete and tile of the Metro/at Montreal” (29). The poem ends with Metras’ declaration that the old man’s eyes “have gone blank/from too much history/from the weight of life holding/feet still” (30). Metras, early in the poem, gives the history of the man and why he is weighted by life. Metras pictures the man’s life in “30s Shanghai”marked by war, “the mourning when father and brothers died/in war,” and the perils of immigration, “days the steamer crossed the Pacific/to live/to labor/year after year paying/the debt/of immigration/to someone’s moneyed uncle” (29). An ordinary scene on a subway generates empathy. The poem is a testimony to mindful compassion. It begs us to see those, like the elder (or stranger), who often stand on the margins of our busy lives and society (the poem references vacationers and office girls who rush pass the old man, without taking note of him).
The poems also talk of family life. In “Advice to a Son”, Metras writes, “Son of mine/you are not mine alone/though I lay claim to you/as you do me” (40). Metras is aware of the limitation inherent in intimate relationships. In “First Roses”, a father chaperones a daughter to and from the prom, “A daughter sits the last mile home/in the back seat alone/The Father alone in front/The aloneness feels the night and the rain and the snow/and for the first time/the truth of its own breath.” (45). These pieces point to the attempt to identify that which creates distance and therefore loneliness. In “First Roses”, loneliness has a life of its own, an entity with breath.
Ultimately, Metras points to the enduring power of love, “…what becomes of the love/Drowning in the lack of midnight light?” (“Working Class Villanelle”, 26). Metras answers, “The lovers are loving in the grace of midnight/In the moon in the pool” (26). This small book is a welcomed read. Its aftertaste is long lasting—analogous to the love it expounds, in the midst of all else that life offers.
About the reviewer: Elvis Alves is the author of the poetry collection <i>Bitter Melon</i> (Mahaicony Books, 2013). Find out more at http://www.poemsbyelvis.blogspot.com