“Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems” by Dan Stone— A Rolling Stone

Stone, Dan. “Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems”, Lethe Press, 2011.

A Rolling Stone

Amos Lassen


“Intoxication is your process.

Be the drink you pour, the potent sip

that keeps the dream dreaming”.


I knew when I read Dan Stone’s “The Rest of Our Lives” that I read something very important and that there would be more. Never did I expect that more to come in poetry but I am so glad it did. This has been a very good year for gay poets and it keeps getting better. In the last week alone I have read and reviewed seven books of gay poetry and I kind of thought we had reached a lull—although none was needed. I find that in reading poetry, I regain my old tools of literary analysis and there is very little that I enjoy more than that. It is a bit different now and I cannot get into Dan Stone’s poetry the way I can get into George Gordon, Lord Byron. Stone is very much around and unlike Byron can disagree with what I am doing.

However that is not an issue with Stone’s poetry because it is all there and beckons to you to read it. The “Tricky Serum” of the title is the intoxication we get from reading the beautiful words of the poet. That intoxication is emotional and I could not deny having a “heady” feeling as I read. The intoxicants are the elixirs that Stone writes about. They include our dreams and our hopes—those things in life that make us feel euphoric, they are those magic potions “for fulfilling what we hold to be our fondest and often elusive dreams”. Each poem is dependent on the one that comes before it and in reading them we move through life and as we do we look or whatever, we find “it” and decide what we want to do with “it”. We come to terms with what we want as opposed to what we need and here is where Stone excels. His poems talk about not only what we want from others but also what we want from ourselves. Can our dreams come true and do we want them to? The elixir that is Stone’s poetry is sublime as it sends out shards of beauty.

We ask ourselves as we read– do we chase our dreams or do we allow them to envelop us (and what is the difference)?

“There are times a lover’s arm around your waist,
his breathing in the night,
will take you home
and other times the memory
of his calling out your name
is all the joy you get to keep.

In the morning
dreams will drop you at your door
and drive away, leaving you to wonder
where they go, and what they came to say,
leaving you alone, awake,
and aching to go back to sleep”

Stone has divided his poems into three sections: “A Dream About a Dream”, “Orpheus Descending” and “Tricky Serum”. Part one gives us the beauty of desire:

“The Kiss I Want

refuses adjectives.

Even fertile English fails—

a butterfly, an intuition,

a shooting star that sails

across the outer space

of someone’s eye

but it’s just a lucky light,

a glancing bolt,

a desperation…:


Part Two looks at missed opportunities:

.“By the time I heard the news

his ashes had been pinched and flung

like salt out on the bay, his schizophrenic mom

and distant dad cursing their bad luck

over their shoulders.

My high school friend was blowing in the wind

and even though I tried to breathe him back

his scent was gone”.


And Part Three deals with hopes for better times:


“So we press on arm in arm

with the wizard’s palace on the horizon

not realizing until reaching the gate

and asking to be ushered in,

that we had what it takes all along.

Simple as believing what we always knew,

scary as letting go of a hand

and with our eyes closed,

clicking our heels”


Stone’s poetry is very real and very haunting and I must admit that even though I was well aware of what a wonderful writer he is, he managed here to surpass himself and for me that means that all is well.

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