Breaking Cover: Poems
by Michael Maul
85 poems ~ 126 pages
Format: 6’’ x 9” ~ Perfect Bound
Publisher: Amazon Books
To Order: amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
Among the richest of childhood experiences were hunting trips with my father. An expert hunter and bird dog trainer, Dad skillfully worked Lady, our German Weimaraner setter around brush piles in our pasture. He had a good sense about where to find pheasants and quail. Dad cautioned us boys not to panic when our quarry “broke cover.” As Lady went on point, in icy air still as death, Sunday dinner exploded from the brush. 12-gauge shot did its predictable damage. Home, we trudged, with Lady carrying a bird in her tight jaws.
I recalled those hunting trips the moment I read Michael Maul’s title Breaking Cover.
In this review I want to showcase certain poems which “broke my cover.” Poems which startled me, causing a hiccup in my life. The best poets know how to make readers think.
A Word about Style and Format
Maul’s style is conversational. He writes as if he were talking with a friend enjoying soup and biscuits at Pinera’s. Each of the four “books” contains either 15 or 16 poems. However, the individual books do not adhere to strict divisions of theme or content. Many poems rhyme. While I’m not a big fan of rhyme, I like the way this poet uses internal and end-rhyme. He does so without betraying, “Oh, now I have to think up an ending rhyme because, after all, I’m committed to rhyming no matter what.” Observant to a fault, virtually nothing escapes this poet's notice that cannot be made into a poem. Titles! Maul is good with titles. Who wouldn’t want to read “On Seeing a Teen Girlfriend’s Blouse Displayed in a Vintage Clothing Shop”? Or “Things I Have Heard About You”? Or “To Chinese Hackers Who Stole My Poems”? To readers, I say, “Buckle up for a wild ride!!”
Breaking Cover Book One
I was enchanted with the 7-line poem “Few Finer Things”:
There was a time
when I could image
few finer things
than storks and angels
coming and going,
beginning and ending
our lives with wings.
Poets say familiar things, but they say them in fresh ways, as if it were the first time they were ever said. Here beginnings and endings, alphas and omegas are seen, ascending on the wings of words. Note: “things,” “going,” “ending,” “wings.” Each word knowing where it belongs.
Breaking Cover Book Two
“I Know There Are People” broke my cover in a lovely poem which sheds light on the human condition. From selected stanzas:
I know there are people
who are largely invisible to me.
I don’t know their names,
or where they stay;
I know they are not
who I see on TV.
The poem identifies them as sharing similar life values. But they share them without drawing undue attention to themselves. They know:
We will all be sick, we will all be loved,
we will all doubt ourselves.
We will be given riches unearned.
Knowing joy, knowing sadness.
And when we hate each other,
we will be hating ourselves.
Yes, and yes again, this poem breaks my cover with its truth.
Breaking Cover Book Three
I am stopped “dead in my tracks” by “She Carried Me Just So.” This tender poem chronicles the poet’s mother who had miscarried three times before Michael was born. Ravaged by tuberculosis, she was so proud of her one surviving child, that:
In all the early childhood photos,
including some not far
from the birthing suite,
my mother was always pictured carrying me
strapped to her chest somewhat perilously
with me world-facing out.
Maul writes about his mother regarding him as a special gift to her:
Which is why when we went out
she suspended me from her chest
like a gift
she brought to show the world.
But she was, of course,
the world’s gift to me.
Fighting through years of mother-to-be
then decades of devotion.
I'm "broken" by this poem because it brings to mind longings for my own mother who suf-fered too.
Breaking Cover Book Four
“New Widow in One Chair on the Porch” transported me to a time I dread to face. That time when either me or my wife will put away one chair the other always occupied:
She still sits there
in the shade
hearing sidewalk walkers talk.
But you can see shadows
formed around her eyes,
like the stains on concrete
where, for years,
his matching chair long sat.
This poem, and so many others, broke my cover, like a covey of quail rousted out from the underbrush. Can’t think of anything better for my personal growth than that.