(Fort Lee, NJ: CavanKerry Press, 2016)
“When you reach a certain age – say sixty or so, things start to haunt you. You are well into the second half of the roller coaster ride, and you are looking back at what you left behind,” says Kevin Carey in a recent interview with Doug Holder of The Somerville Times. Carey’s newest collection of poetry, Jesus Was a Homeboy, mesmerized me; but more than that, it also left me wondering how he pressed his pen to shape each Word – some fiery, some comfortable, and some confessional – to explore vulnerability about the process of life. In forty-one poems, Carey has carved out a place to keep fading memories alive, between past, present, and future, with an immense sense of dislocation.
Almost an autobiographical musing, each poem renders stages of life from childhood into adulthood, and explores how our thoughts evolve as we age. Carey opens the collection with personal emotions and nostalgia in “Summer Storms,” which echoes with the acoustic effects of a thunderstorm, a powerful phenomenon that can lead children to seek comfort in their mother’s arms. “The sky flashes and I think, /When did the lightening start to scare me? As a kid I loved the summer storms, / hunkered in my room by my closet,/ the walls of my mother’s house, much stronger than my own.”
In “My Father’s Son,” Carey transmutes separation into acceptance. “Here I am,/ letting the phone drop on my end/ while he slams his into pieces/on the other./ We are a thousand miles /apart, acting in unison,/ a conversation ending without words.” Carey’s voice is clear about the concept of time, the myth of aging and self- realization. “Sometimes it feels like the clock is ticking/but I am my father now, / praying in empty churches, / knees aching, /the clouds gray and hanging over my head.”
The joy of being a father himself is obvious in “Delayed,” where Carey shares his desire to continue the process of being a father, a process without an ending: “Nothing is as it should be./ I should be a father/ of young children forever,/ little hands always holding mine,/ wagons in tow, standing in deep dug/holes at the beach.”
Throughout Jesus Was a Homeboy, general ideas like these become personal. “Wishing Well” evokes the psyche of tradition, superstition, and wishful thinking, and Carey provides details that are subtly deliberate without overlooking the reasoning behind them. The beginning lines may not represent the poet himself, but just an observer who is nostalgic and mindful, and is trying to filter reality through a balanced approach of deep thinking and actions by comparing material decay surrounded by nature: “Passing through Ocala, white stucco ranches, orange groves, cypress trees shedding their skin, another line of broken motels stamped with plywood windows …This is Florida.”
In this prose-poem, Carey has managed to control time in its most present state, without letting it slip into the past where memories begin to fade. The language is simple, pronounced without the use of extensive metaphors. Further, the poem is dense and does its work quietly, representing strength freely and endlessly:
I remember when my kids were little, two and four, maybe, I said to my father in the house I grew up in, I’m sorry for those years it was so crazy. It must have been hard. He just looked at me, a note of confirmation, not entirely releasing me, not willingly wanting to remember it either. It was a silent moment.
I found “Not Much to It” an interesting title for a poem. Here, Carey stretches the meaning of our existence to a deeper level with an internal dialogue, a chant, or a murmur to testify an experience, or perhaps an observation of both worlds, material and immaterial: “You draw with chalk /on your sidewalk./ …Then you wake up one day/… and something you knew/ floats by in the night sky/ just out of reach.”
Jesus Was a Homeboy is an amazing collection about family connections. It encompasses cherished moments of life from both a general and a personal point of view, reveling in details that every reader can relate to. Kevin Carey tirelessly translates personal moments with clarity and eloquence, transforming them into a universal experience.
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Vibha Rana earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey in 2016. Prior to attending Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vibha received her MA in English Literature from Agra University, India. Currently she is working on her poetry book for future publication. Since 2014 she has been actively involved as a reader and a book reviewer with The Literary Review.