Review of Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest by B.H. Fairchild

To be honest, I have no idea how I came across this book. Was it the title that caught my eye, or had I seen a friend mark it as “to read” online? Either way, I’m thrilled it passed into my life. The collection is full of beauty and delves into the worlds of blue collar life, masculinity, the ebb and flow of life in the Midwest. I find writing about poetry collections to be difficult. It’s a shotgun blast of poems and ideas, some of which are similar, but mostly they vary to a degree that it’s impossible to be general. Instead, I’ll point to some poems that stood out for me.

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From “The Potato Eaters”

They unwrap the potatoes from the aluminum foil
with an odd delicacy, and I notice their still blackened hands
as they halve and butter them. The coffee sends up steam
like lathe smoke, and their bodies slowly relax
as they give themselves to the pleasure of the food
and the shop’s strange silence after hours of noise,
the clang of iron and the burst and hiss of the cutting torch.

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From “Weather Report”

The divorcée coming from the laundromat
knows the cycles of laundry and despair:
back then, the towels they shared, but now a basket
filled with someone else’s underwear.

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From “History”

Wired tight on No Doz and coffee, I’ve cut iron
for two straight days and nights, and the white cowbird
drifting down the sun blurs through my rankled eyes
and the grease-smeared windows above my lathe. There,
toward the vanishing point where the cowbird dips
and hovers, is history: a ghost town, the least of all

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