"Paul Roessler's 'Eight Years'"

by Marie Lecrivain

The number eight in most belief systems holds a special significance. In the Cabalistic terms, the number eight represents a time of suffering and pain, a test similar to the trials of the biblical Job. Paul Roessler's chapbook, Eight Years (copyright 2006 Brass Tacks Press), chronicles the span of time he spent struggling with drug addiction while trying maintain multiple roles as a musician, husband, and father.

Roessler, a keyboardist and seminal influence in the early L.A. punk scene (see bio), has employed the straightforward in your face nature of punk to a series of narrative poems. In "Breathing Crystal (part 1)," Roessler acknowledges the relief and paradoxical newfound freedom he experienced the moment he surrended to his meth addiction:

Life was no longer a marathon of suffering
It became a sprint with the finish line in sight
Power flowed through me
And whatever ash fell from the sky
I relished as part of the absurd journey
My relationships improved or withered away without regret
I no longer feared dying, but welcomed it, prayed for it
I breathed crystal, let's not be mysterious
And lived in a diamond palace
Overseen by an artistic god
Closed my eyes to all doubt and questions of faith
Started my own religion
Joined the pantheon of the greatest composers and thinkers
Solved all the social problems
Loved unconditionally
Stopped smoking
And waited for the end.

Roessler's laconic voice juxtaposes the tragic and triumphant events of his life next to the occasional epiphany: "Sad Songs (part 3)," reveals the disconnected ties between Roessler and his two children as they grew up and succeeded academically in spite of their parents' descent into drugs; "Coach of the Year (part 6)," enumerates Roessler's "Art of War" coaching strategies to transform stereotypical misfits (fat kid, awkward kid, etc.) weaknesses into strengths which enabled his basketball team to achieve a season of victory; "Giving Birth (part 10)," divulges the isolation and joy of a man creating music in an attempt to escape his inner demons; "Manna From Somewhere (part 11)," tells the tale of the fleeting happiness and ultimate price that is often paid with acquisition of ill-gotten gains; "A Semblance of Sanity (part 21)," cynically advises an eldest child how to avoid the pitfall's of a failed parent's life path; and "Noticed this Morning (part 22)," shares the ironic secret to a successful marriage between two irascible people:

I noticed this morning
The reason we've stayed together so many years
Is that she will forgive any monstrous transgression
Any inhuman abuse that I shower upon her
Red pages of dalliances
And call it "entertaining"
How she is wired
And weird
But I hated myself for a while there, man, ugh.

Then I remembered
Oh yeah!
I'm quite a forgiver myself!
She's had her moments
Some might say decades
That I had to write off to
The wrong side of
No Bed
I kept chugging
I still adored her even when she had those horns...

Roessler attributes the time he spent in Mississippi assisting the Hurricane Katrina effort as the inspiration for writing Eight Years. Any poet, like Roessler, who allows the suffering of others to enter his psyche, willingly faces, and then poetically conquer his demons is a one not only worth reading, and but one worth emulating.

Bio: Paul Roessler was born in 1958 in Hew Haven, Connecticut. He began musical studies at age eight and joined early L.A. punk phenomenon The Screamers at age 19.

He continued to play in and record with dozens of other cutting edge bands including the Dead Kennedys, Nervous Gender, Nina Hagen, Twisted Roots, 45 Grave, Mike Watt, DC3, Mark Curry, Pat Smear, The Deadbeats, Celebrity Skin, Duff McKagen (Guns and Roses), Geza X and the Mommymen, Josie Cotten, the Joykiller, Prick, Leah Andreone, Redd Kross, Saccharine Trust, Andy Prieboy, Gene Loves Jezabel, Eric Gales, Tom Sartori, The Carter Brothers, Tyler Hilton, and many , many more; as well as solo albums and movie soundtracks.

In 2005, while working in Mississippi on the Hurricane Katrina disaster, away from his keyboard for the first time, he took up poetry.

"Eight Years," Paul Roessler, Copyright 2006, Brass Tacks Press - www.lifeasapoet.com, 31 pages, $5.

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