More than the Alley | Doug Draime

5½” x 8½” trade paperback
144 pages
Interior Noise Press; Austin, TX
ISBN-10: 0981660665
ISBN-13: 978-0981660660
Available at interiornoisepress.com and on Amazon

Ah, Doug Draime. What to say about the man? He is a gem of the small press and his poems are bursts of fresh air among too many other gulps of same ol’, same ol’. This book — this beautiful, robust, necessary book — will not disappoint even the toughest of small press critics … a category I generally find myself gracing. So take it from a source who’s been around the indie press block a few times: Draime’s the real deal.

Interior Noise Press puts a lot of work and passion into their creations, and this collection is no exception. Cover to cover, it’s laid out beautifully, decently edited, and bound in sturdy trade paperback. Worth every cent for the words, of course, but definitely just for the packaging and (insane!) quantity of poems alone, if nothing else convinces you.

Mr. Draime weaves tales of bygone days with the best of ’em, from rock ‘n’ roll jukebox bars to back alleyways to memories of ’Nam, in poems that read almost as prose, short vignettes and stories broken into lines as sporadically as the man appears to be broken himself. He is the master of real, dingy, gory tales of life’s darkness and vivid, harrowing images, from men in factories sliced to death by sheet glass, to hookers and wasted women he simply cannot save from themselves,

            [ … ]
            Her 5-year-old daughter
            came out from
            the back bedroom
            and stood behind
            her mother
            in the doorway
            terrified from all our
            [ … ]
            I [ … ] touched her on the arm,
            telling her
            I wouldn’t leave
            till her mother felt
            better in the morning.
            She just pulled away from me gently, smiling,
            and said it was OK,
            that the other
            men had just left her sleeping on
            the couch, or sometimes the floor.
            [ … ]     (from “On a Dark Night Across from the Hollywood Cemetery”)

to the horny, lowdown, and downright crass nature of sex-driven men

            [ … ]
            it didn’t
            to dawn
            on me
            that I’d
            stuck my
            dick in the
            dancer.     (from “How He Met His First Wife”).

Draime doesn’t mince words or cower behind pretty flowers and puffs of silly steam. This is not poetry for the faint of heart and not a man you want to give a hug, although he probably needs one. These are the words of a man who has lived hard and fast, has had run-ins with cops,

            [ … ]
            “Well, kiss my ass,”
            I joked with one of the cops.
            “The last thing I remember,
            I was smoking a joint
            at a friend’s house in Silverlake.”
            [ … ]
            That’s when I had to re-learn
            that you don’t joke
            with the cops.  [ … ]     (from “Routine Stop”)

jail cells, brawling,

            [ … ]
            I told him I had just kicked
            the ass of Jerry from over
            on 13th Street.  He laughed
            and said it was
            about time someone
            cleaned that bastard’s plow.
            [ … ]     (from “Jerry from 13th Street”)

booze, and drugs of the unfrilly kind. He gives easy and experienced voice to the wasted and tormented lives of society’s underbelly: the drunks, the dirty cops, the corrupt politicians, the suicidal, the disillusioned, the dead-eyed,

            [ … ]
            I was watching the
            dead eyes of
            the waitress, arguing
            with the dead eyes
            of the cook.
            [ … ]     (from “The First Hooker (or Dead Eyes in Chicago)”)

the ugly,

            [ … ]
            He [ … ] pulled his t-shirt
            up to the back of his neck

            revealing a large, imbedded
            nasty looking gash
            in the middle of his back
            clear down to
            the cheeks of his fat ass.
            [ … ]     (from “Red’s Tavern”)

and he makes no apologies for knowing their pain well enough to comment on it. He’s clearly been there … more than once.

I say with no criticism but with earnest truth that this is not a lighthearted read, not an enjoyable patio selection with the book club. Some of the scenes are downright hard to stomach and will make even the most galvanized of men grimace. The poems are best served with a side of rocks and the knowledge that the journey you are about to take through the pages will not be flowery, but will be lasting and necessary.

I leave you with my selected favorite lines from the book. If they grab you, well … you know what to do — support the independent press:

            [ … ] Memory
            replaces everything lost
            in memory.  [ … ]     (from “Into the Bleak Abyss of Night”)

            [ … ]
            sometimes it burns and burns
            the trees we can’t see the
            forest for.  [ … ]     (from “Sometimes”)

            [ … ]  The middle was not
            in the middle, but off
            to the right side, positioned
            like an open grave.  [ … ]     (from “Trip to Nowhere”)

            [ … ] you
            called me a pet name
            you used to use when we
            were pretending a life
            together [ … ]
            [ … ] your heart
            is the same old heart    bleeds
            like an ulcer and I
            can’t stop the bleeding
            and I never could     (from “Colors and Other Things”)

•This book was sent to me from the publisher because I have corresponded with the author.•

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