Review: I Wear My Face in the Field

I Wear My Face in the Field
Chapbook, Ryan Downum, 40 pgs, Dream Pop Press,, $11.95

Behold a carnal metamorphosis that blurs the lines between person, animal and some grotesque in-between. See the blood pooling in the field and running like a river to the water’s edge. “The animals watch.”

It is the scene that sprawls across this long poem, reading like something you’d expect to see unfolding on the plains of Tolkien’s Mordor. Ryan Downum (or his protagonist substitute) ambles through fields, watching animals gather to drink, but soon joins the menagerie to “wait in line.” The body begins to fall apart, its seams punctured. The focus shifts to blood, blood and more blood.

One animal — the “bloodhorse” — is ever-present, lingering close, like an advisor: “and behind me / is the bloodhorse, and the blood- / horse is an orator / pulled from the dark.” It quietly pushes Downum towards a new self and a cleansing eventually takes place: “I leave my bad parts out to dry and the animals keep spells around the water… Bloodhorse, / I’m at the water. / I no longer fear my blood.

I Wear My Face in the Field is a weird and wonderful treatise. It resists full comprehension and manages to do so with both elegance and gruesomeness.