Single Diner's Menu:
John Ballard's Lonesome
When Eve Hanninen asked if I'd like to review Jon Ballard's chapbook of poems, Lonesome,
for this issue of The Centrifugal Eye, I was eager to oblige. After all, I've come to love this online magazine, and
absolutely trust any of its' editor's recommendations.
"I think you'll readily identify with Jon's work," she informed me.
"Great. What's this issue's theme?" I asked.
"Fertile Feasts and Festooned Festivities."
I paused, then chuckled. "I see. The challenge, then, is the tie-in
with 'Lonesome.' OK, I'm game."
Jon Ballard, simply put, has a gift. A gift that is all too familiar to some of us; this gift
is often found in the pensive gaze of some family member who's sitting at the dinner table during any one of their forced
yearly feasts, or behind the subtle smile of that introspective reveler masked amongst the mob of festive attendees —
it's the gift of the silent observer, a smooth and deliberate hunter (whose solitary life is not always a conscious
choice) fulfilled by capturing fleeting moments of brilliance: "As if he wanted to be lonely, the way a sole / Cloud can
seem to shun the vast mania of blue."
And for some, life may very well be A Walk In The Park, but no one ever wears the same
shoes. Some also wear "Boots in stride, clouds of breath proceeding / Them like whooshes from the wands of fairies."
And what of their moods? What propels their stride; their speed at which they pursue life's journey?
"A girl with skates slung over her shoulder
Like a medieval flail rushes past, towing
With her into him the deeper chill of the day."
Does the lone walker slow his pace in apprehension or captivation?
"he has seen her figure eights, her delight
So solitary, so impervious to the world beyond the ice.
Once he'd watched her for an hour, but it didn't help.
There were suspicious stares"
Ballard takes us deep inside the quiet eye, that still shadow of solitude. In Dreaming Death,
Variation #19, Jon exposes the soft underbelly of hunger.
"I thought I loved one of the voices
Trailing down like a line to me,
Though reaching to take hold
Meant one lively leap beyond"
In The Story Of The Poem, my favorite of his works in this collection, Ballard serves up
a witty entrée that immediately seasons the reader's palate with a taste for more.
"I once knew a poem that resisted
Any literary stance, coughing up
Phlegm when I suggested it give
Sentiment a chance."
Here, indeed, is a fertile feast of insight, queued by the distinctive ménage à trois of
a man, a woman, and a piece of paper.
"She was moved. She'd read between
The lines something about ‘longing'
And ‘moving on' and ‘tears of the soul,'
Though behind her back the poem
Chided her for reading too much into
A marvelous piece of writing this is! I won't betray the ending, but instead, hint at it by mentioning
the "ten little pink-hooded executioners." Yet even within the air of this poem's light-heartedness, there lurks that darkness
of being that is Lonesome, "like a preacher / Bawling down from the pulpit / How Eden isn't what it used to be."
Jon's Walking The Back Stairs takes us into seedier territory, to where those of us who
follow the solitary path are often led.
"She can see
The stragglers behind her, all
Of which she is sure are hoping
For a clean shot, which inevitably
Comes: ruby and lace — a glimpse"
These captured glimpses are the festooned festivities of Jon Ballard, a potluck of spirited teases,
elusive tastes of the unattainable.
What is Lonesome? It is what you'll find while Traveling Through Little Towns.
"In one it was the church steeple that was crooked,
Not the parishioners. In another not a single
Diner's menu employed the phrase ‘World Famous'
Though scores of flies decried such heedless modesty."
Jon Ballard's Lonesome is a full-course meal I thoroughly enjoyed, and just as with most
get-togethers, it left me feeling well-fed, but far from satiated. Bravo chef! Please sir, may I have some more?
|Arts & Crafts Menu Border - Ca. 1910
Simon Lloyd Dunbar lives beside an old cemetery in Northern Ontario, with his ferret and twelve hunting dogs. The long, cold
winters and peaceful solitude provide ample opportunity for reflective inspiration. He's an avid reader and writer of science
fiction and horror.
Simon is a regular contributor to and occasional reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye.