A Night Without Armor
"You'd say, time knew nothing
well now you're gone
and time is all I have left"
Bukowsky's Widow - Jewel
Believe it or not I found a hardback copy of A Night Without Armor - in great shape - for only .50 cents. Naturally, I bought it. I've always liked Jewel which is probably why I saw her in concert during her Billboard-topping heyday. I had a seat close enough to see the color of her eyes. But it is her storytelling that makes her a standout in song and it carries over to her poetry.
This collection of poetry is very personal which contributes to it being far above par. There are hints of troubled relationships and trysts on the road and this reader got the feeling she was a rockstar a long way from home.
The best of these poems though are the ones dealing with Alaska, where Jewel is from. (When I said a long way from home, I wasn't kidding). She describes scenes from her childhood - which was pretty rough - and the written pictures leave an impression on you. Like in the poem, Underage, when she describes as a kid hiding out in a club bathroom with biker chicks. She had been performing with her dad at the club when the cops showed up because someone overdosed. She had to hide until they left.
My favorite though is Grimshaw. About a Vietnam vet who she saw every week at the club and who shot himself. As a kid, she performed with her dad to raise funeral money at his wake. This poem is so poignant, searing the soul with the man's loneliness and hidden pain, and the mark it left on the author, that it will stick with me the rest of my days.
There is something else about the Alaska set of poems in this book. Jewel sets a different tone. I don't know if it is because of the environment or the age she was in the poems, but it is like she found a totally different voice. It hints at rebellion. Harshness. A toughness deserving of the Alaskan wilderness. She may have learned to tame that voice when she's outside of Alaska but clearly, it lingers beneath her surface.
Another poem I highly regard in this book is Father Of A Deaf Girl. It is short, beautifully crafted, and I admit, had me almost to tears. Always the sign of a good poem.
I got more than my .50 cents worth out of this book. I am sure I will re-read this again in the future. I know Jewel has a biography out and I'd love to read it. But in the meantime, do yourself a favor and pick a copy of this up. It's poetry so the investment is emotional, not time related. It will broaden your horizon. I give this collection a 4 of 5 on the rating scale.