Electric Review

Culture & Criticism Since 2003

Life, Death & Poetry

HYMNS TO THE NIGHT ROAD (Poems For Dead Parents). John Aiello. Electric Review Press.

“(and)
I wonder what
You’re thinking today
(as)
Your eyes
Dart around
The room
Like dank mirrored spears
(wondering)
Where the
Mind goes
(fecund)
In clots
(& waiting)
To die…”

From “I Wonder What You’re Thinking on Your Death Bed,” page 62

When I was a teenager in Hawaii in the 1950s, there were two subjects, sex and death, that no one other than the Waikiki beachboys I knew would talk about. I had grandparents and great-grandparents die during my early years, but, even though I asked, no one in my family would tell me what had killed them. The funerals I had to attend with bodies displayed in satin-lined coffins seemed grotesque, and the conventional and often cliché-ridden eulogies expressed at the services seemed absurd. 

As a stark and welcomed contrast, the traditional beachboy funerals meant something, and were in fact enjoyable. We paddled outrigger canoes a half mile to sea and put the ashes into the Pacific Ocean, and flower leis after the ashes. Then we paddled back and gathered to drink beer and eat, and do what Hawaiians call “talk story.” Most of the stories, some of them funny, were about the dead beachboy – his actual virtues, his unfortunate flaws, and who loved him and now would miss him, and why.

Poet John Aiello grew up on a ranch in northern California, and I have no idea whether or not he’s ever visited Hawaii, but that doesn’t matter. Like beachboy funeral stories, his Poems For Dead Parents are honest and respectful, and also finely written. Paradoxically, his ability to write candidly about death brings his subjects back to life. That’s an impressive gift.

by Michael Baughman

© Michael Baughman. All rights reserved.


Oregon writer Michael Baughman, who was born in Buffalo, New York and raised in Pennsylvania and Hawaii, is the author of nine books, including the just-released An Old Man Remembering Birds (OSU Press). Baughman previously taught literature and writing at Southern Oregon State University in Ashland for 30 years.  

Talk to Rat:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on January 3, 2022 by in 2022, In the Spotlight, January 2022, Rat On Fiction & Nonfiction and tagged , , , .

Navigation

In accordance with FTC Guidelines on blogging and product reviews, The Electric Review discloses that the books, records, DVDS and other products reviewed are submitted to us by publishers, record labels, publicity firms, artists, manufacturers and creators free of charge. The Electric Review further states that these entities and individuals submit materials to us of their own volition and understand that the submission of material is for discretionary consideration by the Editor and is not to be construed as to be in ‘exchange’ for a review.
The Electric Review does not serve as a ‘for-hire’ advertising vehicle and the submission of material for review creates no agreement either express or implicit requiring us to provide comment on a book, record, film, product or event. In sum, The Electric Review accepts no payment for the publication of a review. Instead, commentary is published as a free public service with reviews based solely on merit and the lasting classroom or cultural value of a given work: this compendium of essays meant to serve as an electronic library and on-going teaching resource surveying the 21st-century landscape.
Website copyright: John Aiello & The Electric Review. All rights reserved.
Violations of this notice are subject to sanction under United States Code: Title 17.
Reproduction of material from any Electric Review pages without the written permission of John Aiello or the named author is strictly prohibited.
%d bloggers like this: