Sometimes you find your heroes too late; they’re already gone into the ether. But what’s worse is watching them stumble, fall, and disappear, departing this rock floating in the middle of a great black void, leaving you behind to write little epitaphs in their wake. That’s what this collection feels like, an assemblage of goodbyes and shots poured out for each of his heroes, in this case the filthy grungy chainsmoking heroes rocking out into the netherworld. Carstens’ tactics are direct: the poems are more a raised toast between a drinker and a ghost, alone at a bar and mumbling to himself rather than anything eloquent or overly prosaic. He leaps from one tombstone to the next, giving a moment’s due to each name that haunts him still, revealing what they meant, how they lived, how they made him feel, or offering how he’d like to go. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as Carstens reminds the reader to make every day count, to live in a way so your loved ones know how you felt about them without you needing that last bedside chat, because you might not get it. And as if he feels he’s running out of the time, the collection is brief, not much dancing around on the page, not much playfulness to the lines and imagery. Instead this assemblage is a to-the-point jab of the finger in the moment of heartfelt truth from that friend of yours who won’t ever give up the hard life, and for that you’re thankful. It’s available form Grey Borders Books.
- James H Duncan