Jesus in the Ghost Room
Written by Rusty Barnes
Review by Lane Scoggins
Often through couplets, Rusty Barnes, author of "Jesus in the Ghost Room", utilizes everyday events to speak to deeper ideas about the circle of life, death, sexuality, and fatherhood, as well as many other topics. My favorite poem was "Sometimes I Say", in which Rusty Barnes breaks down how it feels to have suicidal thoughts in an authentic and poignant way. The poem opens up with
"Sometimes I say to you suicide and you say slice by length not by width, and judge carefully the angle of the blade at the rise and tumble of the vein."
This poem's nihilistic view of death has the same thought process of someone feeling suicidal in that all the separate thoughts slip-slide together. No line breaks occur at any particular pause in the sentence, rather they act like breaths that drag you farther and farther down the page into the speaker's obsessive thought spiral. As someone who has personally struggled with cutting and suicidal thoughts, I feel this poem really cracks open the fear left under the surface of someone struggling with self harm that there is nothing after this life. As with all of Barnes' poetry in this book, there is no sugar coating with possibilities of a sweet release in the afterlife, rather a knife-slice view of death as the ultimate end.
Overall I found this chapbook really relatable. I connected with the speaker easily and felt the emotions - the fear, the lust, and the loneliness - that the speaker felt. I felt immersed in these brief moments, these recollections described in such detail. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who appreciates contemporary poetry.