Silent Marshes
by Tom Moran
Format: 5 1/2'' x 8 1/2'' ~ Perfect Bound
24 Poems ~ 36 pages
Price: $15.00
ISBN #: 978-81-19654-67
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

For a moment Tom’s title, Silent Marshes, had me fooled. The title took me back to my Cajun roots in south Louisiana. There, “marsh” or “swamp” conjured tales of 15-foot alligators, a legendary swamp creature named “Monster Rougarou,” snakes, frogs, pirogues being poled down the bayou, Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees, and golden sunrises. These notions were soon disabused by the author. Tom was born and raised in the south side of Chicago, in a tough neighborhood. Tom’s “marsh” resembles gray, pock-marked concrete and families which cling to traditional values: hard work, churchgoing and loyalty. Marsh also means that invisible, often silent, space where one lives and navigates life’s challenges.

My goal in this review is to highlight the heart of a mature poet whose latest collection gives voice to similar silent marshes many face in life.

“Dialogue with a Muse” is about Tom’s feelings as he prepares to attend the prestigious Iowa Summer Writing Festival: “I’m inspired on the way. / Open up and feel again. / You pave over yourself / to hustle a buck. // What if the well goes dry? / Dig deeper. // How will I know if I’m any good? / A lump in your throat / before you speak.” Who among us hasn’t felt a twinge of self-doubt before we read our work?

“Departure” returned me to my own mother’s beside as her life slowly ebbed away … his airplane lifting off, is a poignant example of Tom’s silent marsh theme:

          The heart monitor alarm beeps.
          Skycaps rush in to
          check her luggage.
          Her flight is boarding.
          She passes, chalk white.
          White as the sheet
          they cover her with.
          White as the page
          I write on,
          white as the vapor trail
          of her jet
          than angles upward.
          White as the spaces
          in my life
          when she would leave home
          for months at a time.

The poet’s flight metaphor is perfect. By my count, five variations of “white” coalesce as Tom processes his loss. With a touch of irony he recalls times … “when she would leave home / for months at a time.”

Stylistically, Moran writes a relatively short line. This suits him. I was taught to use short steps when walking through wetlands, lest I sink into uncertain terrain. Within his lines, the poet treads carefully, searching for the right words to guide his next steps.

Speaking of steps, “Hitchhiker,” harmonizes both style and theme:

          I pierce pinholes
          in a piece
          of black construction paper.
          Hold the paper up
          to the sunshine
          because as a child,
          I was told
          that the stars
          at night
          is light
          shining through from Heaven.
          I pull away the paper,
          smile at
          the newness
          of love
          on my face.
          I live
          on the cusp
          of two worlds,
          one spiritual,
          one Earth bound;
          a hitchhiker
          in the rain
          who can’t run,
          can’t hide,
          and can’t make
          it stop raining.
          A soul in
          a concrete world,
          waiting on the day
          I cut loose,
          fly free.

Just as “Hitchhiker” reveals the poet’s journey down two roads “one spiritual / one earth-bound,” he invites me to join him through the silent marshes of my life. “Vacancy” opens the heart of a youth who, “would play / in the bare spot / where her (his mother’s) car / should have been parked … a room vacant / in my heart / just in case / she returns.”

“Thanksgiving” captures the secret ruminations of a small boy. The poem opens a book of memories about how Tom’s father took him to a turkey farm to “pick one out”. Moments later, the turkey’s neck was snapped off, the bird, now in in a white box, slides down a chute ready for the ride home. The poet wonders:

          how will I
          find my place
          in this cement world,
          where something
          once alive is
          butchered, boxed, and
          laying in a back seat.

Silent Marshes is a thin volume consisting of twenty-four poems. Yet, it is pregnant with one man’s studied wisdom about life. That study is a journey, ever-fresh, ever-renewing itself in truth. Gift yourself, order your copy today.


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