The second collection of poetry to be released by Thomas Porky McDonald, Downtown Revival: Poems 1994-1997, covers the poet’s most focused and (arguably) prolific period. Written directly after returning to Downtown Brooklyn following a protracted suspension from work, Homestand opens this collection with a number of personal pieces. “For Ever Friends”, “All These Eternities” and “Single Santa Fe Car”, as well as the title piece, show the poet’s appreciation for both the concept and the reality of home. McDonald continues in this vein in Trolley Tracks, another collection that speaks to the inner soul of the man. “She Smiles For You Ever”, “Once Upon a Time on a Platform” and “As the Pink Grayer Grays” live in reflective glances that are obviously revered by the poet.
Ramble Poets, which McDonald himself considers his most structured and polished book of poems, goes back to the ballpark, in a way that is reminiscent of his first two poem books, Second…to Verse and Eternal Postcards. Along with baseball pieces like “Safe Harbor” and “September Rain”, Ramble Poets also contains a long list of thought-provoking verses, most notably “Cross on the Red”, “When the Day Comes” and “Bleary-eyed Milkmen.”
The final two books that appear in Downtown Revival are Gravy Man and Universal Loner, which appear semi-autobiographical in nature. Gravy Man, in many ways as reflective as Ramble Poets, features some nostalgic material, like “Time Induced Lies”, “Hey Jack Ruby”, “P.S. 6 is a Parking Lot” and “Sunnyside Gardens.” The tender “Waltz Into the Night” closes out this book and leads to Universal Loner, which could well be entitled “The Sad Poems.” The title piece, along with “Scenes of This Earth”, “All Ashore”, “Miss Troubadour” and “I Never Went to the Polo Grounds” all shed a tear for a time lost. The final poem of the collection, aptly titled “Until the Next Remember”, leaves the reader poised for the next five book set by McDonald, Closer to Rona: Poems 1997-1999, in which the sometime “gravy man” and “universal loner” finds love.