I first saw poet Todd Boss when he gave a reading at the Barnes & Noble in Roseville a couple of years ago, as one of the finalists for the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. To its credit, the Borders store at Midway carries his book Yellowrocket. He writes revealingly about his childhood on a Wisconsin farm, the way his family loved the land and the way they were particularly vulnerable to cruelties of the weather. Among the poems about adult years, pictures of marital unhappiness stand out for the way they depict love even in the midst of discord. In “Mess,” the frustrated wife can find no more effective way to get through to her husband than to leave the kitchen sink on until it overflows on the floor, explaining: “Like this! … / You asked me how you should love me.” Alienated in his marriage, the husband retreats in another poem to the Longfellow Cafe in Minneapolis, only to realize that the people there frequently confuse him with another unhappy man who takes refuge at those tables.
Writing in ragged short lines with plenty of internal rhyme and slant rhyme, Boss tries on a variety of tones and themes with success. “She Rings Me Up” is a laugh-out-loud anecdote about a series of misunderstandings with a cashier. “Icicles” takes on Metaphysical conceit, as he argues that icicles are created by the act of melting as well as destroyed by the act of melting, and “On / that intersection / their existence / hangs—as hangs / a heart by how / and for how long / what’s felt is felt.” It’s a sophisticated metaphor, and it warms my heart to know that there are people in the Twin Cities who have these kinds of uncommon thoughts when they look at the all-too-common icicles around us.
Boss also does well to conceive of parenting as an act of praising God: in “My Joy Doubled,” driving his young daughter through a gorgeous pink and yellow morning, he muses, “She is so young. / If I can’t train her eyes / to love, how else then / praise the lapidary, / who cuts our days / like diamonds / from the carbon cold above?” It doesn’t matter that I’m not a believer; that’s beautiful. Near the end of the book there is a poem of romantic love, where the narrator breathlessly beholds a white deer for a precious few enrapt moments and feels so lucky to not have missed seeing her. “A Deer” perhaps represents the best of Todd Boss’s insight and his fondness for beauty.