Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog
by Alan Catlin
Review by Patrick Allen

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Cover of Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog


Alan Catlin, Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog, Presa Press, PO Box 792, Rockford, MI 49341,
72 pages, 2017 $13.95

The ancient Chinese revered their elders.  American Indians.  Europe. Africa.  But the US of A? Not so much.  It’s all about youth, the consumer culture, what can you buy that will keep you vigorous and deluded that you can remain stuck in a time warp of ageless consumption of products that mask your true age?  It is the kind of society that elects a man with the temperament of a five year with an intellect to match, the hair of a wild animal who is married to a marvel of body and facial reconstruction.  In early middle age. Whatever that means today.

Catlin’s elegiac Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog isn’t like that at all. Not even a little bit.

“Looking through
a lifetime of my
father’s photos;
places they had
visited we had
never seen or heard
much about except
as a paper trail
of medical bills”
from “Sorting Old Family Photos”

Apparently Catlin has reached a time in his life for retrospection, not of dwelling on the pace but of inspecting it: not so much a cataloging as memorializing those who have moved on.

"She kept her daughter’s
hair in a covered hat box
well hidden in the back of
her clothes closet, coiled as
a snake in a rain forest”
from “The Optimist’s Daughter’s Hair"

Often these memorial poems are frames as a painting would be or a photograph,

“Mother’s hair in the morning
is dyed in streaks, laden with
salt and sea weeds that remain
behind, knotted into gritty,
twisted braids she unravels and
lets fall to well below her waist.”

The similarity to a narrative expressed in Art is germane as many poems render works of art into poems such as “Portrait of Young Girl by Renoir”, “Woman with Hair Standing in the Air at the Clark”, “The Black Statue in the Winchester Cathedral basement and Crypt and “Flower Arrangement in the Window of Jane Austen’s Writing Room” among many others.

In the end this is a work that encompasses a lifetime of experiences, the people the author has known who have moved on, is a mood piece in a minor key. And there is always a kind of humor in the poems as the woman recounting her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband taking the dog for a walk that she never worried about him coming back, the dog knew the way.

Patrick Allen published in Misfit previously. He is content with leading the life of “a complete unknown.”