Described as ‘a book of short stories, poems and
monologues’, there’s something scrappy and
inconsequential, lightweight, about the collection.
There are breathless, unpunctuated prose-poems and cute
little seven or eight-liners in free verse in the style
of Richard Brautigan. The stories are stronger, but with
a maximum length of four pages they are often too
tersely anecdotal to gather real momentum. The best are
sharp, macabre histories of urban fear and violence...
What becomes increasingly clear is that Shepard is ill
at ease in his own voice (where the poems come from) and
not too certain of his role as detached narrator either.
The atmosphere is ostentatiously anti-cultural,
sometimes gratuitously distasteful; the tone is
strident, tough, out to shock. It’s like Rimbaud on the
rampage, without much trace of the literary talent. Six
or seven times, however, he really hits his stride and
it’s usually when he’s dealing with the parts of America
he loves; or finds fluency and poise in the monologue of
an assumed personality...
For Shepard the two Americas exist
simultaneously: the mechanised world of motor-car, radio
culture, rootlessness and nuclear threat; and the
ancient, often mythical world of the Frontier, the Wild
West, the prairies, Indian spells and superstitions.
Cultural Critic & Essayist Mark
At their best, Hawk Moon's poems and short, short
stories have the fishtailing, careering momentum of
Jayne Mansfield's deathmobile, which, as it happens,
puts in an appearance, in "The Curse of the Raven's
Black Feather": "Visions of wrecks. Visions of wrecked
stars; Jayne Mansfield's severed head. Jackson Pollock.
Jimmy Dean. Visions of wrecked cars. Asleep at the
wheel." We can hear the incoming buzzbomb squall of punk
rock in Shepard's hopped-up, free-associated imagery,
and in the manic glee of his depictions of a post-'60s
America gone to seed.
In "Seven is a Number in Magic," a marauding gang of
feral kids—close kin to William Burroughs's Wild Boys,
on "customized Schwinns and stolen bikes with raccoon
tails flying from the handle bars…and mud flaps with red
and orange reflectors and the Ace of Spades stuck in
their spokes"—surround a gaggle of nurses, out for a
night on the town. Slashing the young women "with silver
car antennas like whips," they steal their purses. When
one of the nurses makes a run for it, a boy gives chase,
"doing wheel stands and burning rubber right on her
heels." Lopping off her ear with a switchblade, he
brandishes it in triumph. The next day, alone on a
rooftop, he threads a leather thong through the ear and
hangs it around his neck, a fetish object for the Lord
of the Flies. "He stands up and raises a fist to the
sky. The Gods are well pleased."