Author: Stan K. Sujka
Publisher: Balboa Press
Published: October 2020
“I listen to your / Motionless chest / The drum of life.” – Stan K. Sujka
Slowing down is a treatment people should follow more often. Those who have not received it consider a pace akin to trickling molasses a symptom rather than a solution. When the modern push and pull of life draws near, burning candles at both ends, a diagnosis would say burnout is the cure and anything below the speed of a hare is the disease. Overdosing on elucubration is fatal; it does not take a doctor to see that. Doctors do however see life at its peak, precipice, and pitfall. Urologist Stan K. Sujka, MD in his poetry collection Man Behind the Mask witnesses and celebrates bittersweet remedies for the trauma of memory.
Simple, heavy imagery through a confessional yet congressional tone explores the lifework (seen and unseen) shared by Sujka. A paleographic approach and motif of keeping the faith resounds in his vignettes. The poem “The Woods” observes the Jewish atonement ritual of Tashlikh, blending spiritual and secular beliefs. A baptismal rebirth and liminal dilemma take place after stepping into the past for forgiveness and leaving its pain behind for the future. In contrast, “The Featherless Birds” offers a peaceful protest against commercialized nature through the invention of the plastic flamingo and its inventor Don Featherstone. The Floridian symbol also serves as a twofold ironic one: a kitschy reminder of a beautiful bird and a fun-loving memoriam of a man who suffered from Lewy body dementia.
Dissonance between how memory and history represent truth presents a needed disquietude and sobering clarification. Sujka handles this through the event and theme of death. Deferred to solemn reverence, Sujka prefers to see death as a hopeful new beginning or a source of enlightenment. The life and death of Ernest Hemingway in “The Last Bars of Hemingway” illustrates the famous writer’s tactile dread on and off the page. Sujka wears his heart and heritage on his sleeve, creating a communion between the clinical and the clerical. His Holocaust poems such as “Aurora Borealis” (an account of the death marches of concentration camp inmates), “Kharon” (the fate of pediatrician Janusz Korzek and his orphanage), and “Auschwitz 2013” (the generational gap and synchronicity with the conflict between ancestry and anachronism) manifest a full-bodied tapestry of the nadir and zenith of humanity.
There exists a sterile sameness that blinds people to the unobserved life. There also exists artificial distractions, overbearing and misleading, straying away from the natural world’s simple pleasures (“Cow That Swallowed the Moon”). All in moderation still experience the abject and fragile impermanence of life. Among the dead and dying, beyond sentimental platitudes, knowing life goes on after death (“The Shroud”) affirms that faith without works is dead. Under the auspices of an augur and his bird watching, Sujka and Man Behind the Mask devote time to the observed life, touching moments with kind, discerning eyes and giving a name to the nameless.
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