Oyster Boy Review 16  
  Winter 2002
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» Levee 67


What's the Tough Guy Feeling?

Reginald Harris

David Lawrence wants us to believe he's a tough guy. This book of short, stripped down poems and prose-like dreams are filled with pain and blood and blunt language. Women dump him. He cheats on his wife. The IRS comes after him and he gets tossed in jail. Lawrence dreams of being a boxer, fighting champions like Hector Camacho, or a rapper "The Renegade Jew," battling sucker MCs on the mike. He doesn't so much hold back his tears as curse at them, daring them to fall. "I like to get punched / the way I used to like to snort cocaine" he writes in the collection's title poem, and he wants us to believe him.

Sometimes this stance works, and Lawrence's pith and grit combine to create pithy, often funny, vulgarly honest poems, that pack a surprisingly strong punch, like a swift jab right on the button.

At other times, the performance wears thin. The pain is here, and some of the beauty, but there's little that truly connects the reader with the persona in these poems. One wants more from Lawrence, wants him to stretch, reach, dig deeper, and be more honest with us and himself concerning the emotions he's experiencing. Many of the poems are little more than anecdotes, short jokes, or bitter punch lines one might hear a bruised former lover spit out late one night in a bar, searching for someone to commiserate with him. But just when you get pulled in, intrigued by the story, the teller clams up, orders another drink, and moves on to another tall tale. Eventually, the bartender sings out last call, and you leave, feeling as though you have seen something, been exposed to something, someone giving you a brief glimpse of their heart, but dissatisfied, hungry, yearning for more.