CADILLAC BABE: Cadillac Battleship, A Review By Corbin Madchenkampfer
Cadillac Battleship
poems by Duane Esposito
brokenTribe Press, Queens, N.Y.
12.00, 65 pp, paperback
ISBN: 0-9763407-0-4
Available at &

I only force myself to read when I’m very, very bored, and even then I keep true to my blood oath that I will never, under any circumstances, finish a book. A collection of poetry isn’t considered to be a book by the Catholic Church so my blood oath is safe for another night.

I have resented Cadillacs ever since the day my father was killed by a man driving one. OK, that’s not true, but he was fired from General Motors for tardiness/murder/larceny. The word “Battleship” hasn’t sat well with me since the Navy decided it was all right to produce bad movies by the truck load. At this point Duane Esposito’s book Cadillac Battleship, is fighting an uphill battle that, perhaps, can’t be won. I dislike the book before I even open it.

Since I’ve been asked to review this book, I can’t stop at the cover, so I flip through the pages, & two lines jump out at me: “I’m half passed out from booze, / & one guy forces me to suck his cock.” Now I know that Cadillac Battleship is not an average Mother Goose Story, which in my humble opinion is a good thing. If you’re like me and right handed you’ve learned that Mother Goose Stories always contain sexual undertones, but never deliver any true money shot. C’mon, think about it. Boy puts his thumb in a pie? Ridiculous. In this book, Esposito doesn’t tiptoe around what he’s trying to get across. And what he’s getting across in Cadillac Battleship ranges far and wide. He does it very well, I think. I’ve only read that one line for the last three hours, in between my “bathroom breaks.”

Once I gather courage (and strength), I scan the book for the page with the shortest poem. “Southwestern Simile” is the obvious winner: “I love my wife like Texas / loves the death penalty.” I’ve never loved a wife, or gone through with a death penalty, so I’ll just take it that Ole’ Duane likes to kill his wife a minute after midnight with a hood on. Instantly I feel a connection with Mr. Esposito.

About this time, I decide to hop on a bus and meet the author in person. A two-day bus ride will give me ample time to read more than four sentences. I can’t wait to meet this man, and actually finish his “book.” On my trip, sitting next to two young Jehovah’s Witnesses (actually, I'm not really sure what their religion is, but they’re wearing ties), I read a poem titled “Helpless.” This poem portrays a boy’s shame after being beaten down and humiliated by forces smaller
than him. His retribution arrives in the form of a “friend” named Fay. The poem communicates how drastically different each of our lives are. Not all of us have the privilege of going to karate lessons; but settling scores comes in more ways than ninja chops and body builder women for hire. I felt from this poem that retribution doesn’t always have to be external. The two Jehovah’s Witnesses are now reading over my shoulder, so I quickly flip back to the line about being forced to suck a man’s cock. It’s going to be a fun ride. Maybe now I’ll read aloud. “Therapy Blue” offers a brutal description of how a human reacts to abuse. Esposito writes, “I mean to eviscerate your bowls, & drag / your bloodied corpse / across the therapy-blue mats. / stained by drool / from palsy-mouthed girls / & crippled boys.” Reading this I imagine a broken man’s kung fu daydreams in a helpless situation. We’ve all been there, in that beaten position, and the author puts the revenge into words like no one else can.

I found that this “book” was very easy to connect with, given its heart and honesty. It contains verses that speak to people who have found that there are more things to cry about than not winning the lottery, or not getting parole, or the age old ‘not getting that liver transplant. Esposito conveys real pain with real emotions translated through intelligent words.

As my bus looms closer to my destination, I loom closer to finally finishing this “book.” The poem “Sing” takes me three hours to read. The author writes, “We are big or just enough space. / Are these two things the same?” Oh Duane, you son-of-a-bitch. Not only am I reading but now I’m thinking about what I’m reading. My parents will be very disappointed with my actions. There really is no turning back.

I wonder if Duane will appreciate the fact that I read and reviewed his work of art. Maybe he can take me under his wing. Maybe he can teach me about craft, and we can drive from town to town, fighting crime and reading our poetry in roadhouses. Maybe we’ll have a bear travel with us. Maybe Duane will give me bus money home.

I finally arrive at the address I assume is Esposito’s. A fragile young man opens the door. We don’t speak as I walk away and break into tears. When I say “break” I mean his back window. I don’t speak as I grab him from behind. His confusion is only rivaled by my determination for him to explain where all this passion and talent comes from. He calls the
cops, and I run back to the Greyhound station. I somehow feel as complete as a molested Boy Scout.

Cadillac Battleship is a book that illustrates the story of a man who has suffered through trauma. It’s an artistic expression that embodies and communicates pain and loss. This collection of poems is as real as it gets. Intelligent, witty, and humorous, only describe the acknowledgments page. Fresh, innovative, and honest are a few-five dollar words that come to mind as I try to relay the gut sensations I experienced from reading Cadillac Battleship.