I always come back to the love poem,
and I always come back to the Ozarks.
~ Dave Malone
In his new collection O (T.S. Poetry Press, 2015), poet Dave Malone charts both physical landscape and seasons of love, revealing how, in the Ozark countryside he calls home, geography figuratively shifts while love continually transforms.
In "We Blossom the World", the first poem in the book's first section "Spring", what Malone's lovers "can't say to each other" finds release through nature's own language—in "forsythia bushing out gold" and "torn-up sky greening into tornado". No matter that "[c]louds shake with gray" ("The Knobby Throat of Spring") or "April wind batters" ("Thunderboomer"), intense love-making ensues, expressing itself in "golden prairie flames, / the timber plain consumed" ("Hips").
In summer, "calves, thighs, shins, / white as cottonwood blossoms" and legs that "hold up the body / that's grown into the body" loved ("Photograph") urge abandon to and in the lovers' oak four-poster, "[his] tongue . . . sweeping low / against [her] flower" ("Silk") until the interminable heat of Ozark August turns even night a "traitor".
By autumn, no calendars need "mark the flutter of romance . . . the flutter of union"; the lovers "sleep beneath the sexed redbuds / purpling like bruises" ("Unmarked"). Their "backs break in loving— / and then the rest . . . " ("Loving"). Absence hollows out before giving way to "a landscape / of cannon and chipped maps and civil war" ("Civil War"), leaving the lovers "at home in frigid water" ("The Deep").
With winter's gloomy arrival, the lovers, "[t]wo poets, . . . try to wrangle language / into feeling" but language "bucks the same // in starts and end stops, promises no forgiveness" ("Language"). Still, there are "[t]iny / bursts of electric lights" in the "dark inside [of] these Ozark knobs" ("Ghosts), hinting of love alive, and efforts "[i]n the finality of midnight [to] break against sleep / and total darkness" reveal at last "the tiny blade / of the new moon" ("New Moon"). With the promising light of that new moon comes the lovers' recognition that "time moves / backwards and forwards";
[. . . ]
Before we can eat brunch,
we are adrift in snow. [. . .]
Before we can speak the language
of knowing each other, the shorthand
for gardening and taking out the glorious trash,
we are dropped on a railroad bed.
Under the blue moon, a locomotive
churns through the pine forest.
Blinded, we weep like newborns
until arms join in the utter, forest dark.
~ "Tiny Machine"
And so life and the love that refreshes and restores it cycle through O, light giving way to hurt giving way to darkness giving way to light.
In the vividly realized geographical and metaphorical landscapes in which he creates his love story — story, not simply a series of individual poems addressing the subject — Malone is unabashed in exalting romantic and physical love. As economical and plain-spoken as they are, his poems never shy from declaring love in its most passionate forms: in flesh and in blood, of body and in spirit.
The poems, however, also speak to what happens when a "gangly" moon "looms as boring as it can get" ("Separation"): the eyes of the lovers dull and words fail and lips become "only a solid line". Sometimes, Malone reminds us realistically, love takes us into "lands unseen"; sometimes, though painfully, it just leaves us a voice that's "small and squeaky" or hands that get "lost / in the emptiness of space."
O: Love Poems from the Ozarks is Dave Malone's most recent collection of poetry. His other volumes are View from the North Ten: Poems After Rothko's No. 15 (Mongrel Empire Press, 2013), Seasons in Love (Trask Road Press, 2012), Under the Sycamore (Elder Mountain Press, 2003), 23 Sonnets (Bliss Station Publishing, 1999), and Poems to Love & the Body (Bliss Station Publishing, 1999). He also is the author of the fictional Purgatory: A Good Way to Die (Butterworth, 2013), the mystery Not Forgiven, Not Forgiven (Trask Road Press, 2012), and co-author, with Kerry Doan, of the two-act drama The Hearts of Blue Whales (Trask Road Press, 2014). (Check the Writing section of Malone's Website for information about obtaining text of any out-of-print books. Some are available as electronic copy.)