Reading "A Fire Without Light" by Darren C. Demaree
A Fire Without Light is a collection of political poems written by poet and founder of Ovenbird Poetry, Darren C. Demaree. These were written shortly after Trump’s election in an array of prose poems. The style choice seems fitting, considering that these read like his own diary entries as he tries to navigate life in a state that voted for a president he doesn’t believe in.
Since Darren sent me these poems, I have read them several times. I had the pleasure of reading them last time while the Disney animated movie Pocahontas was on. I haven’t seen this movie since I was a child, but as Pocahontas started singing “Colors of the Wind,” I noticed that some of the words were never truer to me. “But still I cannot see / If the savage one is me / How can there be so much that you don’t know,” as well as, “You think the only people who are people / Are the people who look and think like you / But if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger / You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
These lyrics were the perfect backdrop for Demaree’s poetry because they sound like an anthem for the citizens who were and still are against Trump, including Demaree and me.
Trump made fun of a reporter with disabilities. My brother has disabilities and views Trump’s presidency as a slap to him, which is probably how a lot of others in our country feel.
Trump was on trial for molesting a girl during one of the many pageants he oversaw. He was crude to Miss Universe when she naturally gained some weight, which I feel just added to her beauty, but Trump only saw dollars and decided to televise her forced work-out sessions. This is why I was afraid of Trump, not to mention the fact that he was clearly racist and suspicious of everything our previous president did. Suspicion can distract a man.
I, personally, didn’t think this would happen because I thought this was the purpose of the electoral college. For once, I had believed in them, until they casted their votes and didn’t change a thing. A man who doesn’t believe in the free press shouldn’t rule.
Which is why poems like Demaree’s are so important. They remind people there are other points of view, fears, and the freedom to speak those.
Sometimes Demaree is angry at the state of Ohio, his state, in these prose poems / journal entries, but other times he just wants show them what the issues at hand are. On page 5, he wrote “Will we be able to trust a single intimacy while we live in the Midwest? I am expanding my intimacy. I want my bed to spill over the neighbor’s yard,” and, “Will one look at my naked wife remind them that her body is not theirs?” These are not the words of a man trying to pick a fight, but of a man who is worried about the things you can only learn from walking in the footsteps of a stranger, or a neighbor.
On page 8, Demaree tries to figure out how Trump got elected. “We offered him the world. We know he wants to consume the world. We offered him the world.” Poems like these are needed today to start a dialogue on why a man we know hates “savages” and “strangers” could be given so much power.
Demaree is up against his own family, including his own father, which is mentioned later in the collection. He uses metaphors to try to reason with a world that has gone a little haywire. To his father he calls “a feather on the wing of a doomed bird.” How will we all get off the doomed bird before he comes crashing out of the sky?
And how can we handle family get-togethers until we can start addressing these issues? For Demaree, the only way to get through Thanksgiving was to rehearse the nine things he allowed himself to say. “Thank you for the pie. I’d love some more coffee. Could you turn up the game? Yes. No. No. I’m having a little trouble breathing. I’ll go warm up the car. Thank you.”
The first Thanksgiving after the votes were in was no picnic for my family either. My mother viewed any vote for Trump as a vote against her son, their nephew, cousin, grandson. And no one brought up the election, I believe because those who voted for Trump knew that was how our family viewed their votes.
The world is just better with freedom of speech and trying to learn from each other. My favorite prose poem in this collection is the one where Demaree states he is willing “to call him [Trump} the sun” if “he’s willing to let Sandra Cisneros make all of his decisions.” Can you imagine if a poet were president? There would probably be so much discussion, and so many exercises that made people walk in the footsteps of a stranger.
According to page 20, Demaree was averaging one poem every 6 hours during this time, but this collection only provides us with a small sample. Makes you wonder what it would be like to read all of the poems he wrote during this trying time for him?
No matter your political beliefs, read this poetry collection. And then find other poetry collections revolving around politics. Things will be okay if we all just listen to each other.
Darren C. Demaree is from Mount Vernon, Ohio. He
is a graduate of The College of Wooster and Miami
University. He is the recipient of The Louis Bogan
Award from Trio House Press and The Nancy Dew
Taylor Prize from Emrys Journal. Outside of his own
poetry, Darren is the founding editor of Ovenbird
Poetry, as well the Managing Editor of the Best of the
Net Anthology. Currently, he is enrolled in Kent State
University’s M.L.I.S. program, and is living and writing
in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and children. A Fire
Without Light is his seventh collection of poetry.
Order the collection here: nixesmate.pub/darren-c-demaree-a-fire-without-light/