Mr. Rogers Kills Fruit Flies by Scott Ferry
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
Review written by Andrea Walker, February 2021
A surprising journey awaits the reader in Scott Ferry’s latest chapbook Mr. Rogers Kills Fruit Flies. This thirty-seven poem collection is chock full of surprises. From the beginning, even the titles evoke curiosity.
The first of three sections is a dramatis personae of ten famous people, with most of whom the reader will be familiar. In addition to Mr. Rogers, this cast of characters, each with his or her own poem, includes Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and John Muir. The titles cast each character in a role that appears, like Mr. Rogers, outside that character’s purview. The speaker of each poem tries to make sense of what is happening, for example, when in “John Muir sprains his ankle,” the speaker is thankful he did not injure himself when he fell just down the path from his cabin. Muir/the speaker goes on to muse about understanding
agony, seeing many thousands slaughtered by this
country tearing at itself, not civil at all.
This poem is rich in the imagery, like “elderberry, wild cherry,” and listening to “the ferns reach to the light,” a reader will associate with the man who is also known as “Father of National Parks” Ferry makes keen comparisons of sorrow and joy with frequent use of juxtaposition of unlikely circumstances.
The second section entitled “How to cross eyelid bridge” and containing a poem of the same name is subtitled “Titles of children’s books that will never be written.” Having little to do with children’s books, hence they will never be written, but plenty to do with children with some poems with children as speakers, for example, “The game of erasing yelling.” This poem meaningfully narrates how young siblings negotiate overhearing their parents argue downstairs:
And M said, un-speaking that we should make Jello
and rejoice for pineapple! And I un-replied
that the merpeople nap backwards. She agreed!
In “Talking to the gray woman behind the steeple,” the young speaker is skipping Sunday school and digging for coins left by children who buried them decades ago “behind the ivy bricks” when the ghost of a woman appears and speaks to him in Spanish.
And I can see her Sunday dress to her ankles,
can smell gardenias, can hold the sadness in my teeth.
I don’t know what she has lost, just that she is waiting. . .
The poet portrays a moving image of the child listening to the woman with compassion.
Other characters in this section are plants and insects, animals and organs, and even organisms. The poet reveals himself as a member of the medical profession with some of his language, for example, in “Holden’s cowheart boat” and “How to cross eyelid bridge” and an astute observer of nature, particularly in “Clockwise the sleeping octopus.”
The third and slightly longer section is called “Divination.” The poet defines the various types of prophecy with insightful examples. Arranged alphabetically, like a dictionary, the first is “Aichmomancy: by sharp objects” in which he addresses a fear of and fascination with
. . . the pin, the spear, the record needle
before it slices through dermis into adipose, into viscera?
(Or do I just remember it sinking deeper as a child)
In this poem the speaker looks back on childhood and appears to have reached a level of acceptance of things past. “Cleidomancy: by keys” begins with a somber tone by recalling locked items of the past like the locked safety deposit box of the speaker’s mother and his father’s storage locker with his army helmet. He then moves into the “stretching present,” a more lighthearted time of
daughter refusing all breakfast except Nutella, wife
slipping into sleep by the fire, surprise carne asada
for lunch. . .
One of the most touching is “Nephomancy: by clouds.” Memories of childhood dreams climbing to the clouds where the five-year-old could find quiet or solitude “or the best parts of the people I loved.” This one is divination at its finest.
In addition to celebrities and nonhuman characters, the book is peopled with children. A theme of time runs throughout with references to clocks and units of time from seconds to decades. Along with some serious issues, we discover a poet with a great sense of humor although often expressed in absurd situations. Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies will take the reader off the beaten path into a wonderful and mysterious world of insight and imagery.
For reviews of other chapbooks, please visit: Previous Chapbook Reviews