By Lynette G. Esposito
The Philosopher Savant Crosses the River published by New Chicago, reveals Rustin Larson’s sense of place, time and sense of humor in almost eighty pages of artistically controlled poems.
In, By Greyhound with Grandmother on page nine, the reader is immediately invited onto the bus with a safe companion. Larson skillfully sets the scene with the title before he reveals the details in the text of the seven- stanza poem.
Quarters slid into the vending machine.
It’s good to have a town in mind in California
when you speak of death.
The scene is set, the location is clear and the action of eating from a vending machine shows the reader the circumstance. But death?
Subliminal messages: deviled ham
On white bread.
My grandmother handed me half.
The poem triggers the narrator’s memories of sound, taste and color. He mentions his grandmother again so the reader knows the narrator is with a safe traveling companion.
The ending, however is a surprise since there is a tone of calm and nourishment. After remembering the taste of a drink that spoke of sunset and tasted like kisses, the last line brings an image of colossal meaning of his feeling for his grandmother and her role in his life.
My grandmother hugged me
The way a mountain hugs stone.
The poem is written in three- line stanzas except for the last line that stands alone. The visual of the two traveling companions is built into a remembrance and an accolade for the safe feeling being with Grandmother. This artistically transports these images into the universal feelings and observations one has of a protector.
On page twenty-one, the narrator is in second grade and speaks of First Love. This is a time of innocence and surprise. The three-stanza poem shows a young boy discovering desire and longing.
In second grade, I stuck my paste-stiffened mittens on Donna Owen’s shoulders, then choked on my saliva.
The poem ends with:
tree quivered as it swallowed it down. The goddess walked flowing
in silk. She would take her chances. The cool air shattered and sang.
The images are descriptive and lovely as this young second grader discovers the fleeting deep emotion of young love.
On page eighty, the poem, Neruda, demonstrates a wry twist life has. All is good in the five stanzas until the last line.
Neruda had the goddess scarf
dangle what was over all
in heaven again pounced
in a roar around the microscope
about what the devil said.
The evangelist, red,
complaining, is lit
with Neruda’s returning,
white and blue, by the way,
with happy people.
it occurs, it asks me
and then it rains.
This poem has a serious and religious tone. The reader is drawn into the importance of what is happening here. And as in life, no matter how serious, no matter how religious, nature takes over and puts one in his/her place. In this case, it rains. It is a fresh presentation on pomposity.
This tome has a wide variety of scenes, places, situations and images that seem to speak out loud of commentary on daily life both as it is lived and remembered. I liked the conversational tone of the poems and the skilled clarity of the narrator’s observations. This is a good read.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/PHILOSOPHER-SAVANT-CROSSES-RIVER/dp/0359990975
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.