Image Credit: Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Most of the time, people misuse the word “seems.” They mean that something looks a certain way, when they mean to say that it definitely looks the way that they’ve described. “Seem” should be used when something looks a certain way, but lurking beneath its surface, it’s actually another way–usually, in an eerie, unsettling manner. It’s a below the surface word. Much like the stories in Kathryn Gossow’s short story collection, The Dark Poet, things and people are not as they originally appear.
In the story, “Next Door,” Cassandra attends a party that her neighbors are throwing. She spends the party, following Paul, whom she finds alluring.
“He is a dark planet and around him circles floundering stars, weaving and missing each other. People caught in his orbit. Lovers as debris caught in his gravitational pull. And yet she is drawn, dragged into the trajectory of his enigma. She can’t see him. She sees him, there in front of her, but she can’t see him. Not yet.”
The stories, like the people at the party, revolve around Paul, and the effect that he has on others. Paul is a self-proclaimed musician who doesn’t seem to play—only goes to concerts. He lives off of other people, a bit like a parasite, leaving nothing but destruction in his wake.
Cassandra is one of the few people to see him for what he truly is before he has the chance to hurt her, like he does the others—
“He is the dark poet, hollow and eaten from the inside out, like a black hole. The facade of
a handsome face, but beneath he is skeletal with sunken cheeks. A thing will eat him away; he has the thing in him now, tasting him, nibbling at him, leaving darkness. But the hole is hidden by his youth, his allure.”
This collection of short stories reads more like a novel with shifting points of view. They all surround themselves around Paul, and his toxic effect on others. He’s lurking throughout the piece, upsetting the universe, and causing destruction, even from a distance.
Gossow’s prose is lovely and deeply rooted in the poetic. Her characters are compelling and drive the plot of each piece in interesting ways. I was hooked from beginning to end. The Dark Poet is available through Odyssey Books.