mooncussers/ poems by Mike Jurkovic/ book review by Joann Deiudicibus

Mooncussers is published by Luchador Press and is available from online sources.

Modern life moves at lightning-fast speed, only to be outpaced by the greed of certain politicians and their forked-tongue rhetoric, while poetry slows us, braking to stop time until we can finally hear ourselves think and breathe. Amid the glittering American Dream rat race where it’s kill or be killed, the voices throughout Mike Jurkovic’s mooncussers are always themselves. As the title suggests, there are those waiting on the wreckage of others to profit, and those (link boys the OED tells us) waiting to light the shadows and lead the trusting to their demise (usually into an ambush). These men would curse the light of the moon that might give away the element of surprise and leave them without their dirty work. Nothing is quite what we’d expect in this book, as we ride in on the “cursing tide” like the “wreckage of the sea” (“Swimming w/ Picasso”). Jurkovic raises the questions: what’s one to do to get by…and why (or why not) be such a brute? 

The collection maps a path via thruways, waterways, moving within weather systems and atmospheres. mooncussers begins by exploring our collective impatience in “Wide Left Turns” as a speaker describes tailgating on old country roads, the driver’s compassion draining as quickly as the gas tank as they careen toward inevitable disaster. The poem strikes with these last lines: “So imagine this mob at rush hour, closing in for the kill.” 

We’re guided through gritty land and mindscapes often by a clear-eyed speaker, an observer of everything askew–just off enough to unsettle readers or make them grin. Dropped into Jurkovic’s scene, we can listen distractedly to the jazz/blues musician in his garish, poorly-worn suit, be transported to a Walmart in Kentucky, then travel to Liberal, Kansas, and Pittsburgh. The personal and the political are one in these poems that call us awake from a propagandized somnambulance and mundane drudgery. Among these secular missals that traverse the peculiar in everywhere, USA are unrelenting insights like: “the sinner resides in the holy” (“Autumn’s Blue Rain”); “where sugar n shit / fall from the sky” (“this.”); and “the hungry open fire / not wine” (“not wine”).   

These poems ask that we pay attention to what eats at us–our demons, our misguided leaders and neighbors, our degradedplanet and selves–in the time that we have as “… our hour nears […] …dog-earring pages lest we forget” (“Shamed Angels”). What good is being haunted by a personal or national history if we ignore the call? The collection ends on “Rejection 629,” and the self-possessed proclamation by a writer, “I really don’t care / what you think. … I’ll keep writing / disturbing notes…” asserting that the act of creating and chronicling is an essential and a worthy cause. 

These poems, though at times critical, are works of love for a country and species in turmoil still worth writing about; they are, ultimately, works of peace; who else than the unacknowledged legislators of the world, poets, might move us toward such essential reflection.

mooncussers argues for a life that, like any storm, is worth riding out to the end.

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Joann K. Deiudicibus is a poet, writing instructor and the Staff Assistant for the Composition Program at SUNY New Paltz. Her poems appear in Stone Poetry Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Typishly, ChronogramThe Shawangunk Review, Awosting Alchemy, A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley (Codhill Press), and the Calling All Poets Twentieth Anniversary Anthology (CAPS Press). Joann is the poetry co-editor of WaterWrites, (ed. Laurence Carr, Codhill Press). Her essays about poetry appear in Reflecting Pool: Poets and the Creative Process (Codhill Press) and Affective Disorder and the Writing Life (Palgrave Macmillan). She’s been reading poetry out loud in coffee houses, classrooms, and churches since her late teens.  Ask her about cats, true crime, and confessionalism. 

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Author Mike Jurkovic is a prolific writer of poetry, prose and reviews, many of which can be read here on Lightwood. He is the president of CAPS, Call All Poets, a reading series and small press in the Hudson Valley.


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