A Review of Darren C. Demaree's clawing at the grounded moon
By Ike Pickett
A book of urgency and catastrophe, Darren C. Demaree’s clawing at the grounded moon is a collection grappling with the end of things. The apocalypse at its center is a simple one: The moon, the “tongue of our universe,” has fallen from the sky, and landed in the Midwest. With this great fall comes a shifted landscape—one of cults, witchcraft, and “bleached sharks that have taken over Indiana.”
Underneath the pale weight of its major player, clawing is also a collection that asks how we orient ourselves when our traditions and symbols radically change. “The split came from attempting / to discern what was actual,” one poem posits, making reality something to grapple with rather than an observable object.
Disaster, whether it is encroaching or arrived, necessitates a pivot in how we approach our language. The moon collapsing to where we live and breathe leaves one waiting for the other shoe to drop. It turns the stars in the empty sky into a beast “winking at us the way a wolf winks at a weaker wolf.”
In this nervous waiting, this discernment, there are shifts in the way we speak. Our language makes concessions in order to hold onto some semblance of familiarity in an altered world. It “strips the weight to carry the weight.” The speakers in these poems find themselves gasping in the breathlessness of disaster, allowing little time for reflection. There isn’t a single piece of punctuation throughout the book, a jolt to the senses that affirms how disaster makes a clear hierarchy of our most urgent needs. Rarely does a poem go over ten lines, leaving the reader confronted with the white space of the page, the same crashed moon staring at Demaree’s Midwesterners.
In the urgency of these voices, there is a sense of unity. There’s no clear delineation of speakers in these poems, and it’s as though every person bound by disaster shares a voice. Since no individual poem is titled, the only framework to orient ourselves is what comes immediately before or after, making each page turn a sprint between racing thoughts. This collection asks you to let go of that need for orientation (even when we desperately seek it), to “be seduced with no flags present.”
This collection is at its strongest when the sun catches the glint of a small moment, times when the speakers have something resembling clarity:
what victory living living living what victory
If it is the hinge of human experience that we all seek to be safe and warm, this collection’s lodestar is the moments where its inhabitants are allowed these comforts, even if the only clarity comes in their desire (“i should try and join the oxen their strength is actual / strength”).
In a time when world news often seems to run adjacent to apocalypse, Demaree’s latest collection affirms a worry about our world and its station. But in its grounding moments, clawing offers back to us our own vital qualities, a moon to latch onto:
our survival has always been in defiance run the numbers
Full title: clawing at the grounded moon
Author name: Darren C Demaree
Publisher/Imprint: April Gloaming Publishing
Pub date: August 9, 2022
Page count: 72pp
Tagline: Part science fiction, part natural catastrophe narrative, part Midwestern Gothic fairytale, clawing at the grounded moon is a narrative sequence of prose poems that explores a world in which the moon has crashed into the Midwest, and the people left behind must grapple with the meaning of a heavenly body that has come to rest squarely on the bodies of everything they had believed before the event.
Ike Pickett is a musician, poet, and educator. They live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.