A Sort of Adam Infant Dropped: True Myths by R. Scott Yarbrough

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Review by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
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R. Scott Yarbrough attempts time and again to reconcile his world of the religious and the mythological through narrative, non-fictitious and fictitious poems, which center around his Texan life of conflicting roots (son of a Methodist minister and mother of Chickasaw descent).
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Intrigued by personal and universal myths he writes poem after poem (many believable and some not so believable) philosophizing about people (real and imagined) and personifying characters of old (Medusa, Tiresias, Icarus, etc.) in a new and entertaining, even thought provoking way.
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The entire book, A Sort of Adam Infant Dropped: True Myths, is centered on his own “Personal Myths” (Section I) and his“Teaching Universal Myths”(Section II), all the while searching to make sense of a senseless world and answers to the unanswerable.  Hence, this may be why man/poet is driven to create myths/poems – to sustain him and us through life’s on-going inexplicable moments.
Perhaps the saddest memory poem and the root of mythological stirrings at a tender, young age is Yarbrough’s “Icy Roads at Christmas” where“Christmas Eve has always been a problem for me,” that is when his father, the minister, died of a heart attack.
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… He finally fell lifeless beside/ the sad cat’s meow that twisted around
his feet/like a small tornado….
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…Santa and Jesus/have always been the same person to me, really.
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There are actually two narratives that make up this one complete narrative – the second narrative, in this poem, is the description of grandmother Yarbrough mixing “Ruby Red Daiquiris,” numbing her pain and young Yarbrough’s
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  …Just eight, I slept drunk/ in her snoring arms all night.
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The first section of the book is not ego-centric.  Many of Yarbrough’s poems focus on characters and personal myths that include extended family members, as well as neighbors, friends, and people he has shown kindness to over the years.  In “My Soul Mate Called From Albuquerque,” he writes,
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We grew up the broken children of our own god,
 a Phoenix meeting itself in each morning’s fire.
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And in “Vein-Faced Dolls with Eyes,”
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…In West Texas, when I was in third grade, a teenager/stopped and drop-
ped a raw egg into my Halloween sack; a cruel adolescent trick; it soak-
ed, quietly chewed/a hole, then littered my candy out in little trails/ from
 door to door.
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His strong similes carry this poem along,
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..the raw egg…eating away, dotting a trail/with all that free candy falling
out/likea spilled genetic code, funneling/ memory out of a hollowing
 skull/likeseeds sifted from the belly/of a Jack-O-Lantern?”
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But this poem is not just about a horrific teenage prank that happened to him.  Not at all!  Sinister as this Halloween trick was there is another parallel world happening in the poem simultaneously, woven in and out of its fabric, and that is Nature’s prank to a nameless “she” in the poem and how this objective “she” was frightened by
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Those mindless, vein-faced dolls with eyes that won’t/close: Halloween.”
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Further, the “she” adds:
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…“It was also tricks/and kissing game treats with boys in the alley…
…knowing I’d never grow old.”
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The poem weaves the “she” narrative into the “she’s” husband diagnosed with “Vascular Dementia,” ending the poem sadly and abruptly with the“she” following “that sweet candy trail” the one from the bag soaked by the raw egg
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over the concrete driveway/ past the wrinkled boys, home to her /
mindless doll where she’ll have to watch an /aging witch fly across
her mirror night after night.”
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There’s a reason why I quoted many lines from this poem and that is because Yarbrough has dealt with time (present and past and future) in an extremely effective way and has seamlessly once again woven two parallel narratives into one narrative, lending here and borrowing there, so that everything adds up at the end and you ask yourself – How did he do that? Wow, such good crafting!  Even the lines of the poem that transport us back in time – “Strange how one random story can swirl back school desks/ and black rimmed glasses and hollow pumpkin heads and disguises”- are layered in meaning. Words and images layered in so many surprising ways.
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As a professor of Mythology at Collin College in Plano, Texas, Yarbrough’s poems blend realism with mythology in a way that entertain and question the obvious.  He has carved out a world he lives in and a world he imagines.
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In the second half of his book, universal rather than personal myths tie the everyday present to the mythological past.  Titles like “Medusa in Kindergarten,” “Tiresias,” “Teaching Gilgamesh to College Freshman,” and oddly enough, “Didn’t Pinocchio Know?,” “Protesting Plath,” and “I Want to Die Like Johnny Cash,” reflect poems where axiom and myth blend past and present together.  These poems not only entertain, but question the everyday present and the ageless teachable moments of our classical mythological past.
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“Oedipus Rex Meets Tiresias at Walmart” has smart irony from start to finish, as the speaker, Oedipus, is returning his wife’s (or is it his mother’s?) – “Do it Yourself: Family Tree” PC disk for a pair of toga brooches.   Now think about it “toga brooches,” you know those pieces of jewelry that fastened to a garment.  Hmm…it works, right.  A brooch is something your mother/wife would wear and a “toga” brooch – okay- keeping with the ancient Greek toga wearing theme.  Clever!
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Oedipus finds the “woman’s accessories aisle”and here is Yarbrough’s list:
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 -Togas, laurels,/ choreographing chorus cards, herbs for alters,
 wrinkle cream, drapes, Sphinx repellent – then, there/ they are, solid
 silver with zirconium heads, brooches perfect /enough for a queen.
 Women don’t ever know what we/ go through to please them,
 such a riddle.
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Did he write “riddle”?  That’s what I mean.  The poem is a riddle. Women are a riddle. Walmart is a riddle.  Another riddle- me-this moment in the poem before it ends with Tiresias “blindly” wishing his life away to retirement “in the white clouds and calm of Colonus” is when Tiresias passes the “glasses shop” on his way to the door to exit his journey out of Walmart, and he says that he has to remind himself “to get an eye exam, soon.”  (Everyone knows Tiresias is a blind prophet of Thebes!)
And finally,
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…I hold /up my bag, like a secret, like they want you to, /like you found
the meaning of life at Walmart.
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Life is the riddle. What then could be the answer to what we do and why we do it?  Well, maybe, there is no answer to life’s puzzles/questions, but all in all, Yarbrough keeps it real as one can in A Sort of Adam Infant Dropped: True Myths.
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You can find the book at: http://www.amazon.com/Sort-Adam-Infant-Dropped-Myths/dp/0988383950/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362057918&sr=1-1

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Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of three full-length poetry collections.More about Diane can be found athttp://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/ &https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

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