This was a cold book. It wasn't always winter in the book, but it always felt cold--and mysterious and haunted. "Chronic Town" describes "that icebound city" where:
In the library, the homeless slept upright
at long tables, gripping their open books."
Of course, I watched some short training videos at work today on the homeless in the library. I worry about them this winter, if libraries have to close again, or have severely limited hours due to Covid. A Fimbulvetr, indeed.
The post office is under siege but there are still letters in Allbery's poems! Letters to a lost love. "This morning / I drove twelve miles just to mail a letter." And "Sometimes I still address / envelopes to you, I even stamp them, / stand them empty, weightless on my desk." Well, that's a lonely image. It's in the poem "Constellation" (which is a letter, opening, "Dear C--"), where I learned more about Orion:
I know that Orion means foot-turning wanderer.
That Rigel, the brilliant star marking his left foot,
is actually two stars revolving around each other.
I'm going to stand looking up at the sky tonight, for sure.
In "Firelands," I learned again about the mine fire, still burning, that wrecked an Ohio town and met up with two random coincidii: 1) I also have Ohio family connections and 2) I also propped up my window today with a stick of wood, similar to this:
propping up my bedroom window with a scrap
of plywood, the heft and heavy rattle of warped glass.
My window is still propped open now, with crickets calling me out to see Rigel.
In "After Vermeer," the husband is up on the roof clearing out the gutters in the rain, in a dream, just like my husband, in waking life. And while I read this afternoon, the neighbor girl came out again, wildly singing in the breeze. It's September tomorrow and September in the poem "The Wakeful Bird Sings Darkling," but it's still cold.
The sun could never find its way
to our windows; the walls were thick
as a bunker's, stolid, stone and stone
A bunker is a good place to wait out the end of the world, right? This is the September of 9/11, and she's home in their stone cottage with a sick baby:
That September morning's iris of sky just as fierce,
stripped and raw, too close; I shielded the baby
with my shadow. Then the quiet was tipped
by the ratchet of a kingfisher plummeting
from the power lines into the dark mirror
of our pond.
This baby brings some welcome joy into her life and this book. "Where is our laugh?" he asks. "Where does it live inside us?" And so do "[t]umbleweeds...wild as untethered joy..." But this Fimbul-Winter feels cold throughout, even the fire moments, even the feverish moments, cleaving to its title and theme. I was astonished by the clarity, and a circling back, of this set of lines in Part 4, Death in the Woods, of "In the Pines":
of the story is to keep her cold mystery,
keep that circle drawn around her
higher and higher, a glass wall, keep everyone
from getting any closer.
**This movie is already out--came out in 2017, like several of the books I read!--but November 3 is looming as the end of the world, alas. Please, please vote, America, and save us all.