A Sense of Impending Doom, John Garmon

Laurie Doctor, Transformation (Death), 2016, Oil on Wood, 12″ X 12″



A man in Texarkana is tying his shoes.
The Gross Domestic Product invades every nation.
Cars stream down the freeways of the major countries.
Life goes on living in various unexpected places.
Sea ice at the poles melts in amazing ways.
My windows are badly in need of cleaning.
Meanwhile, the hospitals are full of the dying.
Schools and colleges continue teaching.
A woman in Homer Alaska bakes cupcakes.
People in Nairobi wait for the next payday.
Governments everywhere talk to each other.
Solar and lunar eclipses always make the news.
On ranches in Nevada wild horses graze.
Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains get snow.
People in Bogota carry heavy loads to market.
Natives of Mumbai live in shacks near the airport.
Regrets go to the sinking islands of the Maldives.
The whole world is sinking.
Children in grammar schools enjoy mathematics.
Building big bombs is becoming popular again.
We will have people living on Mars in ten years.
Russians are hacking because they feel lonely.
Oman is perhaps a good place to settle down.
Coal and oil claim larger parts of the market.
Miners in China risk their lives.
Discoveries of gold continue in Alaska.
No one in Barcelona reads Lorca these days.

John Garmon


Review by Joe Bisicchia

Hard for me not to think of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” when reading John Garmon’s “A Sense of Impending Doom.” So much of our existence is upon the shoulders of others, past and even present. It is an ongoing fire.

But Garmon takes this awareness deeper, challenging the doom of ignorance, and reminds us we may only doom ourselves to repeat our horrors if we don’t take time to learn. Garmon is an apparent lover of education, to highlight the universality of life, past to present and the needs to learn. Long and short of it, we are in this together. Interconnected. Moment by moment. Facet to facet of this globe. Mirrors. Much of it, with capability, opportunity, and even simple joy. Do we realize this?

The poem heightens its message at its last line. We must nurture our connectivity to the past. Learn from it. The doom forecasted in the title surely is impending if even those in Barcelona are failing to read the poet Federico García Lorca, one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the twentieth century only to be killed by Fascist forces. We all share a DNA even if we have become unaware of who we are, so very powerful as one, but ever so fragile in our ignorance, unlearned in our separate lines.


Review by John Dorroh

Two structures stand out in “A Sense of Impending Doom”: the capitalization of the first letter in each line and the listing of both common and odd occurrences from all over the globe. “A man in Texarkana…”, “…A woman in Homer Alaska…”, “…Miners in China…” pull us together as a global community, setting us up for some kind of mass emotional response; hence, the doomsday feeling. The capital letters add to the emphasis of each event being solo but simultaneously appealing to every global citizen. Both of these structures seem to foster a sense of order even though the enumerations at first appear haphazardly arranged.

Perhaps after reading the first one-third of the poem, the reader can easily make his/her own list. “We’ve all been there; we’ve all done that.” That’s part of the set-up. Either it all matters or none of it does.

Some of the lines leave the reader asking questions. For example, in Line 5 Garmon writes “…Sea ice at the poles melts in amazing ways…” What ways might he be talking about? I immediately and unintentionally scan my own travel history to Alaska and and Iceland to see if I can recall some “amazing ways” that poles melt. He directs us in his first four lines to specific places and then turns us loose. I appreciate being included in the ownership.

Other lines stop me in my tracks: “Russians are hacking because they feel lonely…” Is this true? Does it matter? It makes me wonder more than I have about the probability that Russians did indeed influence our presidential elections in 2016. That one line is a stop sign for the previous listings, a nice contrast.

Garmon played with my sensibilities. He set me up and then “tricked me,” making me think outside the poem. I like when a poet does that. 


Review by Fred Pelka

All of our various crises are related, born of the mundane needs and rituals of people simply hoping to live their lives with some measure of safety and purpose, and the extraordinary greed of those not satisfied with baking cupcakes or tying their own shoes. The denial of climate change for which we send our pathetic “regrets to the sinking islands of the Maldives” is linked inextricably to the market share of oil futures and fracking and the moribund coal industry. Chalk it all up to idle worship of the golden calf, and to an arms industry that has us collectively funding the “building [of] big bombs” while health care workers in our intensive care units wrap themselves in plastic garbage bags as they try to save lives shattered by the recent pandemic. And then there is that sad conclusion which might stand as an explanation of it all: “No one in Barcelona reads Lorca these days.”

Yes, it’s all related, all tied together in a Gordian knot of our own making. And this poem lays it all out in twenty-two lines: the slums of Mumbai, the Bittersweet Mountains, the housewives of Bogotá, the gold fields of Alaska, and the sad fact that so many of us don’t or won’t see these connections.

Then too there are so many wonderful lines here:

“…Holding the news
Alive like scared sparrows
Flying from hungry hawks…”

“Snow was a sackcloth
Draped over marigolds…”

“Solar and lunar eclipses always make the news”

and they also make for some striking poems.

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