Anthony Buccino’s latest collection of poetry, American Boy: Pushing Sixty, casts a nostalgic eye back at the past while sizing up the future with a wary mix of doubt and hope. Reminiscent of Kermit Moyer’s novel-in-stories, The Chester Chronicles, the first movement of American Boy explores the often-paradoxical psychic landscapes of the United States in the 1950s and 60s. Here, we find a black and white world where father always “knew best/When he left it to Beaver” while Beaver—or at least his contemporaries—hid under schoolroom desks, waiting for Russia to drop the bomb.
Yet as history marches on and the years pile up, the poet remembers his earlier days with increasing fondness, as in “In My Room,” in which Buccino paints a picture of his bedroom—psychedelic Bob Dylan poster, teacher’s desk, Motorola television, and all—only to reveal that the room remains intact, even if it has been transplanted to his office basement. Despite such valiant efforts at preserving the past, Buccino recognizes that he’s embarked upon an impossible mission. Time, it turns out, can’t be stopped—which might not be so bad if old age didn’t come along for the ride. When the poet turns away from the past to focus on the present (and, indeed, the future as well), he gives it to us straight: hearing loss and arthritis are as inevitable as death and taxes. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it turns out. As Buccino insists in “No Time for Oops,” “You’ve got to buck up, kid,/face the way things are./You can’t go anywhere but forward./You’ve got to leave the past behind.”
We are all beholden to the passage of time, Buccino reminds us at every turn — and what we do with the precious time we’re allotted is the best, and perhaps only, measure of our humanity.
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