Somber, meaningful poems

“Always Close, Forever Careless” by Michael Carrino, Aldrich Press, 2016


Special to the Enterprise

Plattsburgh resident Michael Carrino issued a new book of poems in 2016. “Always Close, Forever Careless” was published by Aldrich Press. The collection is atmospheric and peopled by characters and ghosts, haunted by recollections and loss.

Many poems are moody scenes of winter drip and fog and dim light, but there is also “bone-white moon,” “rust-stained sky,” a “red-stained sunset” and noise: a sizzling wok, old banging pipes. We are also prompted by scent: verbena, coffee, mint-scented tissue. The scenes are of coffee shops, beaches in winter, chilly streets.

The word “reverie,” used five times throughout the volume, certainly reflects the tone. Some poems hint at lost loves, lost opportunities, lost connections, morning aches, freeze aches, youthful drama aches. Days are bleak. Boxes are full of old memories. The wind moves restlessly through the poems.

In “Recipes,” an old woman keeps, in a box under her bed among buttons and thread, recipes hand-printed by her mother, and a faded photo of a faraway place sent long ago by a long-lost love.

One poem enacts the action of an aging mind unraveling: In “The August of Magical Cold,” the character, Gina, is described by all the things she is losing: olive oil, a bottle of lilac perfume, a stocking, a red scarf. She has uneasy dreams of loss. Her son has moved away. She sees a carnival worker, in town for the carnival’s brief visit, imagines that he might have met her son somewhere in the world. She loses a shawl; then she loses herself in dream.

“Wreckage” is an interesting representation of the feeling of this collection. It begins:

Another aching winter morning when any gray wave might wash up what is left –And the sea indeed “dredges up/scale, claw, cracked/ mirror frame, any broken treasure//once bound for Boston, Halifax.”

Three characters are featured, each with a talismanic object that speaks of time and loss: Rachel Day keeps a scrimshawed box near her leather diary, not one page dated for years. Christine Deschenes rubs a bo’sun whistle left on her bedside table so long ago she can’t count up the days; and Simon Aparico bathes every Friday night in his copper tub to wash away the stench — fish, no longer caught.

No sun today. None tomorrow.

Carrino is a retired college professor, and an editor of the literary magazine Saranac Review, of which he was a co-founder. He has published several books of poetry previously.