Review: Tears on the Glass Desert by Wesley D. Gray

cover of Tears on the Glass Desert by Wesley GrayTears on the Glass Desert: Speculative Poetry of Holocaust, Fallout, and Decay by Wesley D. Gray
Marrowroot Press (June 2021)
47 pages; $5.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Wesley D. Gray is a writer of things mostly strange.  His newest collection of poetry is Tears on the Glass Desert, which is a post-apocalyptic nightmare that will certainly capture the attention of horror poetry readers.

The chapbook begins with a violent apocalypse. Poems like “Mushroom State” and “Burning on Re-entry” let us know that this is a man-made nuclear decimation of the earth. The repeating image of the Glass Desert seems to imply that the heat from the blasts has melted and refused the bulk of the earth into a shiny nightmare for survivors. The section ends with survivor tales.

the remnants of humanity boil away
like tears on the glass desert,

we survive,
and they call us

This is an ominous start to a very brutal collection, and one that establishes the world well.

The second section, “Children of Fallout,” is a series of tales concerning post-apocalyptic life. Humanity has fractured, and various tribes and clans have risen up to try and survive.

Saints oozing sermons that preached

of New Order and a better tomorrow,
but the tides of these bindings
were just as easily broken.

And the clans that formed thereafter were the darker seeds
sewn from The Fall of Devil’s Fruit,
split into their given factions.

This section really examines how humanity reacts to overwhelming threats and horror. It’s a very anxiety-rich section, and readers will be emotionally tugged into dark places of their psyche by these poems.

The final section, “Faces in Decay,” is a raw look at the end of humanity. Survivors are dying off and what’s left is barely human enough to be worth mentioning.

There are no more faces roaming
in these hills of carnal wreckage,
a desolate horizon of carved murder
and ash silhouettes, of strangulation
and tears of splintered glass.

The book ends with one last vision of the glass wasteland that Gray has created.

Tears on the Glass Desert is a really dark look at the end of humanity. It’s a cautionary tale about man’s need for power and domination and what those will lead to if we aren’t cautious. It’s also a really graphic look at the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic society. And while dystopias are one of the major buzz genres of speculative literature, Gray doesn’t even try to pretend there’s anything but chaos when humanity is forced to survive.

This is a brutal collection of horror poetry and the overarching narrative in the book makes for a quick but potent read that horror enthusiasts will enjoy.

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