Luna Moth and Other Poems

A review of Luna Moth And Other Poems by Steve Luxton

Published on April 1, 2005

Luna Moth And Other Poems
Steve Luxton

DC Books

Steve Luxton’s books appear infrequently, which is ironic considering what a facilitator of other people’s writing he has been, first as an editor of Matrix and The Moosehead Review, and now as the director of DC Books. This third collection seems to have been impelled by two powerful themes. One is the death of a forceful and somewhat distant father, who is the subject of five poems. The book opens with “To My Dying Father,” a poem in which the son recalls an incident at the age of four: his father lifted him to the top of a seven-foot hedge and left him there for a while. The vertiginous experience was frightening, but it offered “terror and delight” (what more could we want?) and the birth of a perspective on the whole world. The volume closes with “Last Commando on His Death Bed,” a valedictory poem that imagines the father (who had been a real commando) breaking open the door of death to confront The Enemy with a metaphorical Sten gun.

The other salient theme is a medical ordeal, a terrifying encounter with the narrator’s own Enemy, a brain tumour. The poems about the terrors of surgery are sometimes mediated by humour, as when in “Post-Operative Ode” the speaker recalls “the big-domed neurosurgeon” saying “he’d popped / the tumour off my brain / like a cherry off a sundae.” But he doesn’t hold back on the grimness of the experience. In “The Indescribability of Fear,” he refutes his own title by recreating the sounds of a hospital visit, moving from the noises in the corridor to the sounds in the room to his own fingertips scratching the cuff of the sheet. The images convey it all. One poem, “The Night Before D-Day,” unobtrusively brings the father theme and medical theme together when a younger man facing surgery listens sympathetically to an older man who is paralyzed by fear: the narrator can see himself as the stoic NCO in a landing craft exuding sang froid. The poem projects a wish fulfillment – to be the younger man comforting a paternal figure.

Luxton has other themes: political commentary on the USA, keen-eyed encounters with nature, and literary satire. Several poems about dentist-turned-gunfighter Doc Holliday and his improbable but historical lover, Big Nose Kate, seem to have wandered in from an as yet unwritten book, but they do fit the mortality theme of the collection, as Holliday (of OK Corral fame) was haunted by the spectre of tuberculosis, which might account for his compulsive violence. A short poem, “Nihil Admirari,” deals with the nature of poetry. The title refers to Horace’s line in the Epistles, “To marvel at nothing is just about the only thing, Numicius, that can make a man happy and keep him that way.” The poem complicates its message by the choice of a less than noble bird to represent the imagination:

Above serial corderillas
of artfully folded Truth and
above peaks topped by strivers,
the latest fibre-based, light-
weight gear,
tilts that huge-winged, mountain

The passion of Luxton’s poems about illness and the loss of a father temper the Olympian mood. It is the nature of a poet to share that “terror and delight” felt by the little boy left at the top of a seven-foot hedge to contemplate the world. Nothing to wonder at? Everything to wonder at! mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

More Reviews

Walking Trees

Walking Trees

Marie-Louise Gay brings us Walking Trees, a story that gives readers a taste of how sweet the effects of going ...

By Phoebe Yī Lìng

The Consulting Trap

The Consulting Trap

With a clear organizing structure, Hurl and Werner's book succeeds as a citizen’s guide to modern consulting.

By Noah Ciubotaru