by Stacy Benson
In his new book, Two Towns Over, Darren C. Demaree uses poetry to bring awareness to the reasons behind an individual’s decision to turn to drugs and the ways in which that decision can impact not only the addict, but society at large. Writing to describe the far-reaching problem of drug use in his home state of Ohio, Demaree masters the art of conveying the controversial issue of drug addiction without demoralizing the addict. Themes of escaping reality and the pull of addiction run throughout.
Speaking in the vernacular of an habitué, what goes through the mind of one using illicit drugs is made plain in the poems included in Two Towns Over. It is clear that Demaree did his research because some of the scenarios specified remind me of outlandish stories I would hear discussed by clients in a local probation office where I once worked. For example, in the poem, “You Can Do Anything In The Walmart As Long As You Don’t Touch The Bicycles”, the speaker says, “…I ate marshmallows straight from the bag & changed all of the televisions to a Thursday football game & I definitely remember peeing in a children’s potty & everything was rosy until I unhooked one bike…” Demaree’s use of metaphors and touches of irony is intriguing. In the “Sweet Wolf” series that opens the book, prohibited substances are compared to wolves. They have different “breeds” and are “wild and dangerous.” Later he compares drugs to bees where the users are the collective “hive.” I found the mountain metaphor to drug use to be especially profound. Demaree writes, “The crumbling is the mountain climbing you.” This sentiment of being ruined is relatable not only to drug abuse, but to any type of addiction an individual may battle.
Demaree addresses a poignant aspect of addiction when he acknowledges that people know of the dangers involved in drug use, yet the desire to escape one’s adverse reality outweighs any negative aftermath that may occur. In “Sweet Wolf 1” Demaree says, “…We know that if we allow the sweet wolf into our veins it will become the alpha inside our own bodies & yet, what a pool to drown in.” This perspective reminds us that the issues facing individuals like poverty, family abuse, and other traumas need to be addressed when trying to help someone recover from addiction.
Because Demaree repeatedly acquaints us with the inner thoughts of an addict, his poems humanize an otherwise misunderstood and dehumanized population. Demaree drives home this point in “Utica, Ohio” when he writes, “…I find no fault in those that take drugs to escape, but I miss so many people that never came back to me.” Sometimes those who suffer are unable to represent or fight for themselves. The poems in Two Towns Over, shed light on the humanity of the addict, and with this book, Darren C Demaree has begun an important conversation about the ways in which society maligns the suffering.