Modern Warfare. David Alexander. Anstruther Press. Toronto, Ontario. 2016.
David Alexander's Modern Warfare is one tight little package. Nine finely fashioned hand bombs of persistent persuasion make up this collection and it is entirely worth your visit. Alexander got Today's book of poetry going with his poem "Aviary for Flightless Birds" and his sharp wit. Humour goes a long way in the Today's book of poetry offices, humour with a dark and direct little kick in the ass, now you're talking.
Aviary for Flightless Birds
First fill the sky with water. Let penguins swim
for fish and colonize horizon. Stub-winged
cormorants splash as clouds and perch
like silver statues on rocky, secluded islands.
Fuelled by flowers and figs,
ostriches streak vapour trails across open blue,
a flock of nomads fleeing fate — to be leather,
feather, meat. Broadcasting from a floating
heathland, the mousey Atlantis rail patrol
a fern-bush — secret entrance to their exile station.
Twilight beckons kiwi to root constellations
for grubs and hallelujah if they find some.
Chicken-sized, they fear chainsaws and stoats.
Sagittarius. Let the last kakapo boom
and ching and skraark his symphony
from a forest pit with new found harmony.
Critically endangered like so many here,
his pleasant odour intones agreeable pet, but easy prey.
David Alexander's Modern Warfare is old news as he has published a full collection, After the Hatching Oven (Nightwood Editions, 2018), last year. If you haven't seen it, it's the best chicken wisdom since Col. Sanders started to batter them up.
Modern Warfare is an urbane walk through Alexander's pleasant peccadillo's and that is just dandy. With a good poet, properly handled, watered regularly, they should be able to write about anything. In Modern Warfare Alexander muses about the ineptitude of the forlorn Toronto Maple Leafs, crack dictionaries and a grade eight romance that never quite got off the ground. We enjoy it all because Alexander directs traffic with a natural ease, we know and feel that these poems sound/reveal true.
From a frozen mud lot at the subdivision's
edge, I spy your Windstar in the road bend.
End of her night shift, your mom sips a soft drink
as I crack sheets of white, sing along
to the Top Nine with Casey leashed
and looking for information. Entrusted at fourteen
with the ritual of climbing porch steps,
I stuff creaky brass boxes with coupons
and gossip, save Christmas card cash
in my sock drawer for caf fries and weed.
Wind stings my toes numb.
The carrier bag digs.
At your door, I fumble a delivery list,
thumb your bell and consider ringing.
Our morning read started a little earlier than usual today. We had the mobile poetry repair truck outside the Today's book of poetry offices by seven this morning. Both Milo, our head tech, and Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, are taking part in a poetry triathlon this weekend. They've been training hard for weeks. We weren't sure their young marriage would survive the Ezra Pound lightning round, none the less, they've both shown up at the office this morning in their poetry swimwear and are headed to the pond shortly.
Milo told us all that Alexander's high school poem, "Secondary Education," could have been taken from his own yearbook. Kathryn added that Modern Warfare just felt right, the proper amount of pepper to get that proper poetry burn.
Everyone is dying. Some of us know how
or where or when
or nothing. I close my eyes,
lift my lids and all is born again. A woman
reading Canadian Living loses thirty years,
her blond son next to her. She got lucky —
the man across aged badly.
The brown-haired man on the subway whose
bones stick through black jeans is dying.
The grey man beside me, rapt in Red October,
The young man next to him in cossack coat,
his dog at home,
both dying — I must be too. Call medic. Forge
hospital, graveyard, church.
Have HBO shoot one more season
of my darling show.
Today's book of poetry needs to catch up in time or slow time down. There never seems to be enough hours in a day.
That said, any time spent reading David Alexander is going to be time well spent. Modern Warfare a small battlefield, an excellent treasure.
ABOUT THE POET
David Alexander is the author of After the Hatching Oven (Nightwood Editions, 2018). His poems have appeared in Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, The Puritan, subTerrain, The Humber Literary Review, the Literary Review of Canada and many other fine journals and magazines. David volunteers as a reader for The Puritan and works in Toronto's nonprofit sector.