Flowers That Die

By: Gideon Halpin

Publisher: Atmosphere Press ISBN: 978-1639881604

Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott

Review Date: January 17, 2022

A poet with a wide range of life experience, a “veteran of spiritual warfare,” Gideon Halpin offers his debut collection centered on the reflections and perceptions of a character he calls “Sad Boy.”

The opening piece, “Mid-daydream,” finds Sad Boy wistfully strolling through a meadow and remembering a girl “who like the rainbow is gone,” leaving him adrift “as a leaf in a stream.” Many of these poetic vignettes are similarly emotive, gentle, full of natural wonder and dreamy speculation.

One of the few rhyming pieces, “Greenhouse,” compares a fire in the fireplace to “the sun in night” while concluding soberly:

life is a garden/in a greenhouse of glass/time seems forever/until it has passed

In “Prayer Flags,” the poet wonders if he’s the only one “torn between the shadow and seeing the sun.” The bitterness of “Serpent Heart” expresses his discomfort for eyes watching him as he bears up under his inner burdens:

I hate them all because/Something seeing me/Adds torment to misery

Though many of Sad Boy’s thoughts are centered on lost love and the futility of his very existence, some suggest a positive outcome, as in “Home,” in which he speaks of using a “trusted carpenter’s square passed from my fathers” to fashion lumber into rafters and shelves, creating the place where he and his woman will dwell. There are occasional sweet meetings with that woman, though some evanesce into clouds of memory only. So in the end, and as his title predicts, we are all flowers, and flowers must die. This spurs in him the resolution to dance “until my face is a crumpled napkin,” a cleverly amusing image of the aging of our flesh.

Halpin, who has led a venturesome life thus far, reveals that his thirst for writing came about owing to desperation. Yet it is clear that he has always possessed a sense of the best meaning of words, from their inner cores to their outer shells. Tied to this is his vivid observation of natural phenomena and the ability to convey those sights and sounds to his reader. The works presented here give a portrait of a real man with tough but touching feelings of love, sometimes presented, as in “Big Sur,” as real and happening, and then suddenly fading back to mere memory and painful longing. All readers will have shared such frustrations as well as some of the touchingly joyous events Halpin describes.

Quill says: This new poetic work is sure to garner a readership of real folks who, like its creator, enjoy re-imagining their own past loves and losses and will look for further outpourings from Gideon Halpin.