"THINK HARD about the last time/you said you were in love/without simultaneously thinking about death." So begins a Kelly Schirmann poem from Boyfriend Mountain, the second collaborative poetry book by Schirmann and Tyler Brewington, out this month from Portland's Poor Claudia. Boyfriend Mountain is a book where falling in love also means confronting your own mortality. It's a place where the joy of domesticity and the wrath of the apocalypse are part of the same thought. Where boyfriends aren't really boyfriends, but the idea of what a boyfriend might represent. "I need to be careful not to mistake sexual attraction/for the desire to sit in a parlor," one of Brewington's poems says.
Desires like these are part of Boyfriend Mountain's recurring question: What happens when we juxtapose ideas of what being an adult means with how adulthood actually feels? Both authors take plenty of stabs at the idea of being a grownup, while carrying a sadness that the fantasies they once had won't come true: "At present I do not have any questions/which makes me feel like an adult," writes Brewington in one poem; "I've smoked enough weed to know/what's deeply wrong with me," writes Schirmann in another. Both authors admit—at various points and in various ways—that they want some part of what they're supposed to want, even though they wish they didn't.
While you probably won't be hearing Garrison Keillor reading any of these poems on The Writer's Almanac anytime soon, Boyfriend Mountain is extremely accessible. Both authors write with an almost pop sensibility, with lines that'll stick in your head, separating easily from the poems they're a part of, managing to be hilarious while also implying bigger truths. The book's a dark comedy about how life is too short and always lets you down, but it's not jaded enough to overlook accidental forearm grazing or imaginary gardens of emotional reassurance.
The final line of Schirmann's last poem—poetry spoiler alert!—sums up the attitude both authors bring to this book. It's the stance that all the work and emotional stress of life won't lead to greater wisdom, but to greater acceptance of a unifying lack: "The world is too big/for anyone to understand/but here we all are."