By Lynette G. Esposito
Lynn Powell, author of Season of the Second, comments that Central Air will startle you with its power. Haunting dispatches from Berlin, droll poems about late fatherhood, cheeky marital love lyrics, searing elegies, and laments for a country ‘growing stranger, less recognizable, more lonely every day…. I found this to be true of George Bilgere’s Central Air in the sixty-nine pages of poetry published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series.
For example, the poem, Fourth of July on page thirteen, is a one-stanza, twenty-five-line verse thatopens with a visual of the country’s birthday celebration causing the reader not to look up at the fireworks but to look at individuals rushing to the hospital after something went wrong.
Across the nation the newly nine-
fingered people the eight- and seven- and six-
(but rarely five – five is rare) fingered people are hurrying to the ER.
Bilgere has them coming from a wide variety of places: from the dark parks, backyard barbecues from the neighbor’s garage as if to metaphorically include everyone. The wife is white faced, the kids are quiet and the fingers are wrapped because something didn’t go off right. He sets a time and place with clear observation how a celebration can go wrong but this poem is not about just showing what happened. His last lines clarify the commentary.
the tiny treacherous bomb
that failed to go off, that refused
to commemorate the birth
of the great republic that stands,
one nation under God, with liberty
and justice, etc. Then changed
This highly skilled poem presents a picture of celebrants and country that twists itself into a patriotic pretzel with consequences. On page thirty-five, Bilgere reveals his dry sense of humor in his poem Mystery of Jerky. He sets the scene at a gas station in Nebraska and lauds the Plains Indians with cutting the heart out of a buffalo and eating it raw in the belief they would gain the courage and strength from the animal. He is eating jerky and ponders:
Why I or anyone would eat this is not clear.
He concludes this four-stanza poem, not of what happened to the Indians, but suggestion of what happened when one eats a tube of jerky in a Nebraskan gas station.
But as I stand here
in the air-conditioned gas station,
chewing on the tube of what might
once have been meat, I can assure you
that is not what is happening.
His ability to set time and place and reference an historical event then connect them to a smile is amazing. His last poem reveals a tender awaking. Ripeness on page sixty-eight and sixty-nine is a one stanza poem of thirty-five lines that uses the power of imagery. The poem opens with:
This summer a big hawk,
hulking and sullen has come
to live in our neighborhood
like a god in exile.
He relates his own life journey to the hawk with his own twists and wrong turns. He uses natural, pleasant imagery of the pleasure he is feeling sitting in a lawn chair drinking a glass of wine. He finishes the poem with:
…It all seems
gathered here in ripeness
of clouds flashing like salmons
streaming down to the west
above the laughter of my boys,
my wife singing.
It is as if Bilgere has reached a pinnacle and comprehends the value of it, The imagery works well on multi levels.The broad range of subjects and keen observations make this a book well worth reading.
The book is available here: https://upittpress.org/books/9780822966890/
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.