THE NATURE OF ATTRACTION
by Scott Owens and Pris Campbell
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
(2010, $7, 43 pages)
The joint endeavor between poets Scott Owens and Pris Campbell encapsulates a love novel’s plot. The sensuous and steamy opening poems in The Nature of Attraction, “Sara’s Dilemma” and “Sara Gone Wild,” explode with the parade of men (especially preachers) who pursue Sara for sex, and the details are vivid, from hard kisses to “jockeys tossed to the ground” to “insides throbbing.” Yet Sara always feels empty. Then she encounters “Norman’s Enormous Thing” in a series of poems with seamless, clever sexual puns and innuendos that are downright arousing! Finally, “Norman Moved In” and Sara wants to please Norman, “…get closer, know what he feels.” Sex seems their only way to try to communicate:
but when they climax and he thinks
she’s not looking, Sara sees fear
beneath the lust on his face.
These poems tell a story of two wounded souls who eventually have a son and try to hold together, though Norman, who is precise and fastidious, ultimately cannot couple with Sara’s untidy, helter-skelter housekeeping or way of life. Their child makes too much noise, disturbs Norman’s routines, and he finds himself lashing out in anger as his abusive father did to him. They never marry and after three years together, Norman moves out and lives alone, “mostly in little pieces,” his whole life seemingly “an endless cup of solitude.”  Sara, however, recovers her wild spirit. She finds her “Wabi Sabi” and races through the park with her son, “feathers in their hair.”
One perception of this Norman-Sara relationship and outcome is that women are emotionally stronger than men, women don’t fall apart, and women grow from pain. On the other hand, it was because of Norman that Sara blossomed. And what about the belief that women sap men’s strength, rob them of reasonable solitude, and screw up their psychological fortitude?
Yet with the lovely, haunting “Sara Dreams of Norman,” the reader favors Sara and pulls for her to understand and accept her positive life changes and hopes she marries her new suitor. Meanwhile, Norman fades into dim memories.
He comes to her in the night,
stars in his hands, Venus
cresting his forehead.
He hands her the Milky Way,
a cover for her bed.
When he bends over to kiss her
his skin smells like baby powder.
His hands are feathers.
She wants him inside her again
fierce and rocking, but
when she blinks, he’s already gone.
A star lies on her pillow.
Her bed lights up the room.
A poetry book with two authors is rare. Kudos to editor Scott Douglass for daring to allow dual voices to create two characters enmeshed in a modern view of love and its sad realities. With each reading, The Nature of Attraction reveals more about the main characters as the reader gains deeper insight into the psyches of two adults who were abused children. To survive, Norman holds tight to his environment, insisting on neat structure to avoid chaos; Sara wears colorful skirts and dances in moonlight, the dirty dishes in the sink not important when she can smell the new grass and read poetry until dawn.
- Sara Claytor