“I’m saddened that we so often choose / burials over what can sweep / us, again, across the fields.” In looking for a first place to land in reading Darren C. Demaree’s Nude Male With Echo, that is the line I find. His exploration of maleness, of what it means to be a man of actual benefit to the world, is most salient in challenging the weakness pervading much of modern masculinity. Instead of being swept, uplifted, men, in his estimation, “choose burial”. Throughout this luminous, pulsating collection, Demaree shows us how men might avoid burial by displaying the myriad other options this beautiful, aching life allows.
“We move to move, like sharks, we are / convinced that is the only way we can live.” It is this movement, the comparison between men and sharks that establishes with what kind of teeth Demaree approaches masculinity. His use of “we” becomes an ever-widening circle, containing every reader in its orbit.
As panacea to this toxicity, he believes we might begin to unlearn this constant movement, the lack of empathy in being a shark. Demaree understands the many ways of living, having been both shark and non-shark. He feels the pull of the waves, the pull of constant movement, as much as any man. Through poetry, he explores other modes of being, writing a roadmap for any other men who might pay attention.
His consistent return to water is tied to the symbolism in his title’s nakedness. He strips away the clothes that the male psyche might otherwise hide behind. This water offers a choice of drown or swim, choices manifesting in the way men speak as he notes, “If you choose deluge first / you have no other choices.” And later, reminding himself to see beyond the ultra-individualist alpha male culture in claiming, “I am not a stray boat, / I keep saying out loud.”
To read Demaree is to be swept along by his frantic pen. But he is never frantic in an uncontrolled way. Only in knowing how vital it is that he, and we, repair what remains of this wrecked world.
That we might look at how often we choose to be sharks, how often we opt for deluge, and yet recognize a better way of being. Herein, he presents a more positive frame for being male. Of being able to look at ourselves in the mirror, naked, and like the echo that caroms back to us.
Nude Male With Echo is published by 8th House Publishing.