Boys by Daniel Edward Moore
“…where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be. Wherever the wound appears in our psyches, whether from alcoholic father, shaming mother, shaming father, abusing mother, whether it stems from isolation, disability, or disease, that is precisely the place for which we will give our major gift to the community.”
― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
The cover art of Daniel Edward Moore’s debut chapbook Boys will make you instinctively take a deep breath. It warns you that you are about to descend not into flat reality, but further into one man’s psyche with all its spirals and shadows. The cover reminds me of a David Lynch piece—part surrealist daymare, part hypnotic and dark nostalgia. What makes this art even more powerful is that Moore’s wife, Laura Coe Moore—the woman who likely knows Moore best—created it.
It seems fitting, then, that the first poem would be “The Architect’s Son,” a piece where “Leather is the love, you thought was a hand, / she said was a dragon’s tail.” An unnerving juxtaposition of rage and fathers and baseball gloves—we have entered the world of boyhood. And this is how we move forward as readers, into the darkness that will show us the light.
It is hard, while reading Boys, to come up for air. This is not a criticism. Instead, these poems create a landscape that so perfectly encapsulates what I can only imagine to be a frightful appointment—to be raised a boy in a society of anger and expectations and “Never Enough.” These are poems where the religions that are meant to give direction create their own trauma and end up leading us further away from our truth.
The universal father, a bloodied Jesus, the boy—together these personas create a peculiar type of trinity. And in doing so, they form a faith more likely to restore the soul, “a cathedral of gnashing teeth.”
The title poem (originally published in Hot Metal Bridge), in its violence and restraint, encapsulates the innate spiritual struggle weaved throughout the entire chapbook. The poem begins:
It sounded like
boys in the woods
kicking a dying wolf.
They called him faggot
and his eyes
rolled to heaven.
They called him hungry
and his face
ate the earth.
Moore’s exploration of queerness against the backdrop of brutality is a long look at “men wearing crowns of bloody tiaras” while “rejecting the soul of a boy.” So when the chapbook closes with the last line, “birds become hymns of smoke,” we are reminded that even in the worst of circumstances there is hope that we can rise above our struggles.
It is apt that one poem in Moore’s chapbook would be dedicated to Paul Monette, author and gay activist who died from AIDS. Monette once said, “Go without hate, but not without rage; heal the world.” Moore’s work exemplifies this quote.
Boys does not deny suffering. It does not deny the gift of anger, “like all religions based on blood.” Instead, it celebrates it. And in celebrating the darkness within us, we have the chance to be transformed.
Daniel Edward Moore is an award-winning poet whose works have appeared in literary journals such as American Literary Review, Columbia Journal of Arts and Literature, Spoon River Poetry Review, Rattle, Mid-American Review, December and many others. His chapbook Boys is forthcoming from Duck Lake Books in December 2019. His full-length collection Waxing the Dents was a finalist for the Brick Road Poetry Prize and will be published by Brick Road Poetry Press in February 2020.
Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe.
She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press and has published three full length collections of poetry, most recently, slight faith (MoonPath Press, 2018).