The Nineteen Steps (Cover)

everything is between us: a Review of Darren C. Demaree’s latest Book

The day I picked Darren C. Demaree to reread, jazz was playing in the room and I was already in the mood to move in time to music and muse. The first words that greeted me were: “Almost all of my language / can take you away / from here” (p. 81)—jazz is like that, it takes you.

Rapture: a body is transported from here to there, from hell to heaven. A body is transported from one emotion to another—from upsets to pleasure—from one plane to another passage. It is customary for organisms to move from conflict to comfort and the other way around.

Aphorism: energy does not die; we change forms, we sleep and dream and wake; water ices, flowers fall, some fly while others swim; sunshine, blue, red, yellow, smiles; brain, body, berry, bedrooms, bedlams and beekeepers. The right hemisphere; the left hemisphere. One, two to nine.

Enter the poet; learn a choir; this is Darren’s fifth collection of poetry. While the poems are not titled outright, the poet affords a reader entrance by splitting the poetry into nineteen steps. The Nineteen Steps Between Us is not just a metaphor, it is a record. Darren is unstoppable—first touch.

Each touch of my body to a surface other

is a prompt to keep touching

keep moving, like a river that is almost all

bank to bed & though I rarely look (p. 10).

The lines above start ‘Step One: an Evaluation of My Physical Purpose’. Poets are also bold colours; I want to see the ninth colour of the rainbow, I said somewhere. So my gaze is on each line. It was Mary Ruefle who said, “the lines of a poem are speaking to each other”. Listen more.

Secondly, listen to these lines:

how lion

I can be without showing my teeth (p. 11)

Notice the connections: the first event is a persona saying they can be lion (a pictorial depiction of strength, of self-esteem) without showing their teeth; the simultaneous event is the persona saying they can be without showing their teeth (as a resultant effect). The poet, the persona is determined.

Darren relies on the ideation “keep moving, like a river” to evaluate not only the personal but the universally personal—a statement of purpose, definite. He chooses to “keep walking” because he has the explicit knowledge that “shadows will do what shadows will do” (p. 11). Poetry is a control.

More lines:

I will need another / another person (p. 14)

a manmade lake / is free of any salt (p. 18)

scars / can still be trusted / to protect (p. 19)

the shards / of a person in front of me / can be a pearl (p. 22)

what if that noise / was a declaration / of love (p. 31)

I need no name for you / or how you’ve come to believe / in your existence (p. 34)

I / can use my body to celebrate yours (p. 35)

I am strong because / he would not allow me to be / weak (p. 42)

give wonder / to your next / guest (p. 75)

The poet’s purpose revolves around many natural obsessions: philosophy, faith, loss, bodily exchanges, familial relationships, flaws, transformations, beauty, love, joy. Darren carries, makes use of his poetic cadence in relaxed manners; he treasures his gentle spirit which is of great import.

In the end, The Nineteen Steps Between Us is Darren’s rhetoric towards the philosophy that even though we believe and behave differently, everything is between us—for instance, love is between us.

Darren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (2016, 8th House Publishing). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.