Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Next Moment

As with so many books of poetry, here's a beautiful cover that draws me in, with cover art by poet and publisher Richard Krawiec, and cover design by Daniel Krawiec. The book, on Day 9 of the Sealey Challenge (where I should be saying #sealeychallenge except I am hashtag challenged), is The Next Moment, by Debra Kaufman (Jacar Press, 2010). Lots of beauty and empathy in this book, speaking directly to me in poems like "The Drought Speaks," naming flowers I love, dry spells I've known, and things I now know to be true:'s the wildflowers that prevail,
     their ragged foliage
     still green in the heat,
     new blossoms about to open.

As I read this one, on a cool morning after enough recent rain that my husband is mowing, our devil's strip is wildly blooming with Queen Anne's Lace. I've got some in blue water on the kitchen table because my friend Kristi said she did this as a child to watch the white blossoms turn the color of the water. They did, after a week or so. Blue lace!

I love this first couplet of the poem "Cul de Sac,"

     Everyone still wants to live in a cul de sac,
     says tonight's hostess, a dancer turned realtor.

..the beautiful, cautionary claustrophobia of it. Plus, I've got a dancer turned realtor in the family, my nephew!

How about this, from "After"?: "The road to hell, / she'd said, is curvy." Funny, wonderful, all too true. Is "falderal" a word? I've written in my notebook. Yes, a variant of "folderol." ["Dated: a showy but useless item"] As in "her nightgown, / silken falderal, / dances on the line." Gorgeous!

Kaufman's poem "The Rushing Way I Went," which ends the first section, Too Late, reminds me of Emily in Our Town, coming back to her life after her early death on one special day that goes by too quickly. Debra Kaufman is also a playwright!

Part 2, We're Never Ready, starts with a diagnosis, dire. A middle stanza resonates with Midwestern me:

     The river murmurs, we have questions.
     Corn stands upright in its close rows.
     The wind stops repeating itself.

"Cemetery Drive" is just so darned beautiful, ending, "Clouds the color of bruised peaches drift east. / So much sky it hurts my heart.""Last Words" is a gorgeously brutal poem of famous and not-so-famous last words and undying love. "We're Never Ready," as you might guess, is a funeral poem, on the facing page of "Receiving Line," about handshakes, something we're not doing now, or shouldn't be.

In "Forty Days After His Death," I found another reference to pecans--"pecans pummel the roof"--which like the Tayari Jones sentence from The Untelling makes me long for the geography of pecans. In "March Blackbirds," mostly about starlings, I also found a reference to the "brown-headed cowbirds" I've heard and seen in my own back yard. I love the closing lines:

     Daylight savings has sprung too soon,
    she says to Jesus or no one.

Oh, the joy in the middle of "Summer Solstice" (with its accidental Covid moments of solitude and vulnerability):

     To crave solitude like a new lover
     you can never get enough of---

     is this good?
     Love can die and even if born again

     is weakened by the wounding
     and resurrection.

     But sometimes--surprise!--
     joy flies in like a jay.

And in "Autumnal Equinox, on the facing page, as a "boy leaps into leaves," a joy coming all too soon. I'm glad to find in Debra Kaufman a shared love of Rumi and, in the last poem, Leonard Cohen. Hallelujah!


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