By James H Duncan
Anyone familiar with Rob Plath, or the artwork of Janne Karlsson, whose splatter-shock drawings grace each page of this new book, will not be surprised by the doom and gloom outlook burning through the pages of In Rot We Trust. Reading it all at once can be a bit overwhelming, as the message becomes a barrage, page after page—this world is full of the living dead, and they’re shopping, sweating, fucking, blabbering, and wasting time all around us. At least, this is what Plath sees when he opens the door and walks outside, as highlighted in “Comeuppance”:
I wish these unpleasant / crowded sidewalks / suddenly turned into / open-air slaughterhouses
While not every poem and image was for me, there were plenty that held strong meaning, as poetry goes beyond just what we see on the page. Poetry’s credited impact must include what we the reader does with what we read, and Plath's work gives us plenty of food for thought. Do we just see gore and horror in our every waking moment in the world and give ourselves up to the useless fatality of it all? Or do we recognize that death does indeed come for us all, like it or not, but it is still just out of reach, barely, so what are you going to do knowing it’s so damn close? This is what I think when I read these poems, each one screaming into the deaf crowds all around us.
The masses, / the so-called living / don’t know it, / but they’re / actually dead / each / zipped up / w/in / their skin / a nation / full of flesh / bodybags
The poems are short and brutal like dangerous pig-sticking knives in an alley fight, but they can move you—to either turn up your nose and keep pretending your life is fine as is, or they can spur you to recognize that, yes, we’re all on our way to the worm farm, so if you have the chance to do something, say something, experience something real and lasting (fleeting as lasting may be), you’d damn well do it now, because your time is already out, that last grain of sand midair and falling fast.
It’s dark stuff, but if you’ve ever found yourself at the end of your rope, in a small room alone crying or screaming or totally lost, you might recognize this place and these feelings. Many of us have been there at least once, and some too many times. This may be the book for you to either make you feel less isolated, or so fucking beyond help that it frees you of the burden and you walk the world careless of the horror. I’m hoping you feel something in between, more aware of the hell exploding around us, but also more willing to fight to prove the book is but a chapter, and not just the gruesome ending.
Rob’s book is available now from Lummox Press.