Heart X-rays: A Modern Epic Poem— A Loch Raven Review

Heart X-rays: A Modern Epic Poem

By Dan Cuddy
The Loch Raven Review
November 2018

Heart X-Rays is a very uneven book of poetry. Some of it is inspired and will amaze readers. Other sections are run-for-cover rhetoric, rhyme machine-gunning any ear within range as hip hop and Spoken Word poetry often are. The back cover blurb describes the book as a twenty-first century beat epic poem that ranges across landscapes and voices, with appearances by Banksy, Pussy Riot, hip hop, the down and out, the up and coming, heartbreak and joybreak, while exploring the mystery we call the human heart. Is the book on meth? Despite stretches of rhetoric the book has poems and passages that will excite the sober and sensitive reader. The poem Charleston on page 7 is a very serious and moving poem on the horrible murders of 9 churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in July 2015. The poem starts with these lines:

Tonight, I don’t know which God
You’re praying to.

I can’t tell which flag you salute.

I am not certain
If you believe in ghosts—

But tonight, I hear them singing:
Oh come, Oh come, Emmanuel

And I wonder just what
The cemetery shovels are burying

Tonight. Suppertime has long passed. 

That poem is by no means the only treasure in this book. The immediate predecessor is a poem titled Street Scene. It starts

while you

are walking,

your head cradled

in your phone,

your ears plugged

with plastic,

there is no way

to alert you;

while you are walking, cooing

to pictures of yourself,

there is no way

to warn you……………..

The poem ends with these power-packed lines—–


beside you,

matching your strid
with familiar eyes,

the rapist






It is amazing how that one word “cool” carries so much ironic and symbolic weight. In this context the word explodes with contradiction. The best poetry can condense so much meaning and emotion in a minimum of words. Are victims seduced by inattention, by the aura of a much admired man or movement or promise?

The book is a collaboration between Marcus Colasurdo and G(regg). H. Mosson. I don’t know what each poet wrote. Perhaps they worked together on every individual poem. There is a vernacular consistency throughout. The only whiff of academia is in the second stanza of Game On. However, the use of such words as ”Inshallah”, “Shalom”, “Sherpa” is not to show off erudition but to bridge cultures. Basic humanity is the same; only the accidents of expression, language differ. Whoever wrote the passage containing those words did it to emphasize the common core.

Banksy? Pussy Riot? They are somewhat maverick artists, outside the official approved culture by the oligarchies. They go or have gone incognito throughout the streets of the world. The authorities don’t like wry comments on public buildings, or guitar slashes with revolutionary rhetoric, and especially not by women. This book of poetry is certainly kin to those artists. It has a bit of Whitman in its best rhetoric. However, the “Heart” being x-rayed is not of any particular individual but of the collective fragmented consumerist society. Are individuals and groups of individuals being attacked by the manipulators of such a society? Have values been co-opted, morphed into monstrosities? Are we as a whole victim to our technology? In Leaving the Gift Shop the third stanza begins:

Techno-Human Poly-Trans-One  
Facebooking the mothering void into insta-image
   Joe’s heart shows up on the assembly line looking for a date:
Do you like poodles or bulldogs, noise rock or classical music?
Gotta go and accessorize the heart.
I can shake your hand or run you over it’s such a crowd.

      Sold the land to TACO ABC
Got a bunk bed at 123 Furniture

Perhaps the language here is unlike traditional poetry. Even Hart Crane’s section “The River” of the epic The Bridge, the rhythm of it, is dated by the strange and all pervasive technology which has claimed the 21st century as its fiefdom. There isn’t majesty in the poem’s words above but there is truth, an abstract mind-numbing mercenary truth. Whimsy is the whore of invention these days. This book captures some of it. However, recapturing the human is a necessity. The book does that too, and that has echoes of the majesty from the past. Here is the closing stanza of Game On, the last poem in the book:

What is the difference between you and I?
Ocean, I am here, let’s open.

Shut the heart down.
Why is my longing a rainbow
And where does it go?
Coax the heart down.

Sea, bathe me in the lull of thinnest tide.
If I can’t cure this rooted pain,
Can I disperse it into delicate rain?
Shelter the heart now.
Sand, with your billion hands, uphold this body.

If the love I feel turns my words to thunder,
Let the heart peek out.
Waves, cradle me in your rhythm.

There is a lot to delight the average reader in this book. As with individual people in life, you have to look past the annoying quirks that may not be to your taste and you will find amazing genuine inventive poetry.

© Marcus Colasurdo, G.H.Mosson, and Dan Cuddy

Marcus Colasurdo is the author of 11 books including the underground classic novel Angel City Taxi. Over the years, he has worked as a bartender, boom microphone operator, waiter, taxicab driver, factory worker, Job Corps counselor, farmworker, journalist, construction laborer, teacher, and more. He is the founder of Gimme Shelter Productions, a nonprofit organization of artists whose performances benefit homeless shelters, feeding programs, and other worthy causes.

G.H. Mosson is the author of two books of poetry, Questions Of Fire (2009) and Season of Flowers and Dust (2007). His poetry has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Measure, Smartish Pace, and The Tampa Review. He published the journal Poems Against War: A Journal of Poetry and Action. He is a writer, lawyer, father, and dreamer. He practices employee rights and disability rights law as well as civil litigation. With Mr. Colasurdo, he has performed as part of Gimme Shelter Productions.

Dan Cuddy is currently an editor of the Loch Raven Review. He has been published in many small magazines , e.g, Antioch Review, Free State Review, Iguana Review,  The Potomac, Connections, L’Allure des Mots, Broadkill Review, End of 83.  His book Handprint On TheWindow was published by Three Conditions Press.

Back to G.H. Mosson’s Author Page | Back to Marcus Colasurdo’s Author Page