Your New Best Friend: A Review of Mustache in Plain Sight by Michael Buckius
Mustache in Plain Sight by Michael Buckius (Tolsun Books, 2022) is an important book of poetry because if it vanished from the face of the Earth, there would be nothing at all in the world that could adequately replace it. It completely does its own thing without worrying what anyone will think. It is as original and charming as that new pet puppy you just picked out at the animal shelter because you could tell merely by looking into its eyes that it was born to become your new best friend.
And the word “friend” here is key: The poems in Mustache in Plain Sight speak to you like a friend. Michael Buckius writes with a voice like sweatpants or popcorn. You feel good in the company of this voice and naturally get the urge to invite it to go on picnics, boat rides, camping expeditions, and trips to delightful local arboretums. Indeed, Mustache in Plain Sight is an ideal “take along” book—lightweight, cheerful, and totally skip-around-able. It’s fun to dive into this wholesome, humble goodness anytime, anywhere. The topics covered in Mustache in Plain Sight are so various and universal that there’s something for every kind of mood and every kind of person. There’s stuff here about mothers, fathers, uncles, prom, K-8 teachers, gardens, summer, substance abuse, apartment living, trees, and many other things that are very easy to relate to.
There’s also a charming blend of humor, tenderness, and love in every poem. Buckius gets us to laugh out loud while also reminding us to fully appreciate the gorgeous awkwardness of loving whatever weird people we are lucky to have in our lives. His poems are better than jokes and better than nostalgia because they teach us to see how beautiful and funny our own real lives are, right here and right now—messes and all.
In the poem “Falling,” Buckius tells us, “This world may seem silly / and full of injury / because it is.” It’s the “because it is” that provides us with the secret to joyful living. The happiest and most hopeful moments in the book emerge from a zone of choosing to accept the silly chaos of life instead of trying to defeat it. In one poem there’s a twelve-year-old destroying a garden with a “miniature souvenir baseball bat.” In another, the speaker is planning to plant a clump of his uncle’s chest hair in the ground to see what it will grow into. The poem about prom ends with the line “No one can love me like a good blanket.”
Reading this book feels like strolling around the best county fair ever—surprises around every corner, voices saying things that you never thought you’d hear anyone say, various dazzling delights that fill you with the most profound feelings of inspiration and awe but will always be impossible to accurately describe to anyone who wasn’t really there.
So, dear readers, I wonder if you like good books. I wonder if you like pleasant experiences. I wonder if you like laughing out loud or feeling happy and hopeful. Let’s get right down to business: Mustache in Plain Sight is that rare, special kind of magical book that somehow manages to leap beyond literature, beyond poetry, beyond books, and whoops — suddenly we’re in outer space doing cartwheels around Saturn’s rings and everyone’s watching and they all love us for the way we have overcome our fear of doing cartwheels around Saturn’s rings just by reading a book. Well, folks — anything’s possible. But do most books these days really remember to remember that? Do they really remember to remember that anything’s possible? In this way and pretty much every other way too, Mustache in Plain Sight is not like other books. It’s more like this really great party I know about that is always ready to make your whole life more amazing.
MICHAEL BUCKIUS was born and raised in Lancaster, PA. He earned his undergraduate degree in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and his MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. He currently teaches at Arizona State University and lives in Phoenix. Mustache in Plain Sight is his first full-length poetry collection.
KYLE FLAK just wants to walk around and look at trees all day.