Crazy Old Man: An Anthology
by Harold Cohn
Outskirts Press

"Do not restrict your thoughts with worries of spelling, neatness, or grammar. Let your thoughts flow with abandonment."

Cohn's offerings form an engaging compendium of poems, short essays, glimpses of history, and humorous observations. "How to Survive a Writer's Workshop," referenced in the above quotation, is one example of the author's wry viewpoint. In a talk with a trash can, "The Receptacle" presents a sardonic imagining of the item's probable future: filled with unsavory articles, painted by gang members, abused by garbage men, and finally, "when your bottom is rusted through," replaced by another, brand new can. Another view of trash, "It's In the Can," references Cohn's work in park maintenance, when noting that the foods thrown away, from steak to burgers, reflect America's economic ups and downs. A short play, "Midnight," depicts the violent deaths of two hard-working cabbies. The collection ends with a tender paean to the poet's wife:

Blue eyed
I loved the girl
I love my wife
I love
The little old lady
In white lace

Cohn, a Vietnam veteran and retired park ranger, has much to say and speaks across a variety of writing styles. The prose contributions cover several "points of interest": Dead Man's Point and Point Loma in San Diego, The Piedras Grande Shepard Pictograph, and the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. These places clearly carry significance for Cohn, whose poems similarly reflect a connection with the natural world. Cohn's expressions constantly surprise, ranging from the pure science of "The Balanced Solar System Theorem" to a disturbing, emotive portrait of a DUI arrest from the perpetrator's viewpoint to the discovery of gold in the American Southwest. The reader will appreciate these leaps from theme to theme while seeing in Cohn's work a well-considered legacy for the family he praises sweetly and often throughout this collection.

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