by Mike McCluskey

"Digging in your chest until the heart is found,
Warm to the bite but it no longer pounds"

This assortment of fifty poems offers a violent glimpse into the mind of a troubled soul with themes of suffering, torture, and depression. Separated into two distinct sections, the first half of the book follows the theme “Patient” in both senses of the word. These poems are about diagnosis, treatment, and a hesitancy to act on urges that are eating away at the narrator’s soul. The second half, “Escape,” lets these tendencies run rampant, painting scenes of grizzly acts and self-harm on the page lest they be made manifest in other ways. While many of the poems follow somewhat similar structures and lengths, “Escape” opens with a story poem about a circus-worker named Grim who yearns to be a clown but is held back and cruelly dispatched by greedy employers, only to find revenge in the afterlife.

Containing gruesome and violent imagery, these poems are definitely designed for mature audiences. The author shows a clearly practiced and comfortable skill with these often uncomfortable subjects, and fans of the macabre or those looking for something to terrify in the Halloween spirit will be quite satisfied in that regard with this book. The wordplay and rhyming vocabulary are masterfully wielded and perhaps best compared to musical parallels such as metal bands or horrorcore rappers for their brutal imagination and rhythmic cadences. In between several poems are a series of photographs that tell a mysterious story of their own of sinister forces and an unspeakable demise. While the subject matter and aggressive consciousness of these poems may be disturbing to those not prepared for it, the level of technical skill on display is hard not to appreciate. Fans of darker fiction will delight in this deep delve of a suffering psyche.

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