The StarPhoenix - The Days Run Away Review

Reviewed by: Bill Robertson

Precariousness of Life Examined

 

Moose Jaw poet Robert Currie brings a collection of his poems to us again, and in gratitude we devour his very humane take on life, such a precarious thing in such a fearful, troubled, beautiful world.

Currie's title - The Days Run Away - is about a man approaching 80 who sees the days running before him like the fast horses on the book's cover. And out of that niggling uneasiness that each day feels as if it's shorter than the last, he takes us in the first sections of the book to memories of a young boy's apprehension of the world, one coloured by fear. Here are poems of young love that turns painfully awkward, of a boy's window onto love and marriage being that of his parents fighting, and the lovely and painful prose poem That Saturday, about a boy who finally asks a girl out on a date only to be foiled by his own inattention.

In He Learns There Is Much to Fear, Currie remembers a failed attempt to hear the poet Alden Nowlan in Regina as he names some of Nowlan's famous poems, many of which are about the worst kinds of fear; being mistaken for the condemned man at a hanging, for instance. As if to justify this fear, Currie asks in Last Week Someone at Work Called Him the Old Guy, "Is it foolish to envy a bird," recalling similar feelings in previous poems where the persona has wished to fly up and away from the unpleasant world below. This poem about an old guy ends with one of Currie's most poignant lines: "before anyone/knows, he'll be gone, his mark on the world/a fingerprint smeared on a glass in the sink/where already someone is running hot water."

No, as Currie makes very clear in Bulletproof, "never again will I feel/quite as safe as I felt till now," but there's still lots of room for joy. There's bailing some drunken friends out of trouble in After the Party, the father's Lincoln, "a bone caught in the throat of the night," hung up on a power pole's guy wire, or hopping into a Corvette and "leaving/the speed limit far behind," as he heads home in Long Weekend Coming. These feelings of love and laughter rise to a crescendo of gratitude and contentment in Say, Did I Ever Tell You, with its last line, "Was it a bit like living in Eden? It must've been," in Sometimes I Know Why We're Here, and in Out of the City. Then the tide of life turns again.

The collection's last section is about the death of Currie's good friend and friend to the Saskatchewan writing community, Gary Hyland. Here, Currie chronicles the realization of Hyland's illness, ALS, and the days as they wind down: "Once he inhaled poetry like oxygen,/but it's not enough, no metaphor/can fill his lungs." Through all the fear that can assail a life, there is the joy that helps us rise above it, and the love of friends, as Currie shows in these last poems to Hyland, that keep us going through the most frightening of darkest days.

To read the full article, visit The StarPhoenix website here.

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