With the flow of Two Towns Over, Demaree perfectly captures the feel of Midwestern small towns. Yet he does so without making them feel small, without relegating them to disregard. And perhaps most importantly, the gaze he casts over them telescopes straight to their open wounds. In this case, the opioid epidemic.
He is able to look at the bleeding, see the minerals and scorn in that blood, and still talk about how that same blood might yet be salvaged. His poetry is not cheap hope. It is the first strike of the wrecking ball against a wretched structure. In “Ode to the Corner of the Drug House Down the Gravel Road Off the Two-Lane Highway #48” he compares a drug trip to:
from the inside
that an actual
Our country lives with that haunting. Demaree has seen the same ghosts as us all but refuses to let them haunt without having a word against them. The shortest poem of the collection, “Jelloway, Ohio”, is perhaps the most elegiac punchline in poetic history when it says, “A sigh / & you’re through.” And in “I Believe in the End of Forgiveness” the anger is infectious when he rails “Motherfuckers, you got high / & stole my kids’ bikes / in the middle of the goddamn day.”
I believe that to show a cause through art is to invest an audience in that cause. If you are not invested in the cause of dismantling the opioid scourge after reading the ache and reverberation of Demaree’s newest collection, then I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.