Probably different things took hold of me this time. This time, I was struck, in "Endurance," by these two lines: "I should say this plainly: / a woman, dying, seeks God." Yes, so plain, so strong. And the terrible, beautiful, true moment, in "At That Moment," of learning of her mother's death by telephone while away at school. This one connects with a story told yesterday, on Zoom, of when our family friend learned of her father's death by phone while staying with my parents. She wailed all night long, and my mother sat up with her. And, in Joseph's poem, "They put me to rest / in the narrow dorm bed, / my room now strange, unfamiliar..." The disorientation of trauma, of grief.
First day freshman year,
I saw two other black faces,
was dumbfounded later when
a roommate asked, What's lynching?
her eyes lifted from Malcolm X's story.
But back to life in the tender and fleeting moment. I love this imagery in "Rationale," a poem about visiting "the fire-singed tenement" of an old lover:
Now we're nervous memorabilia:
letters, cards, one pressed flower,
colorless. Wanting you, I'm skittish,
quick as a hand of three card monte.
And my heart is breaking at the beautiful lovemaking "keeping us here just one moment / longer" (love that line break!) in "Preservation" and risky nights of "In Fear of Sleep": "I may seem frail, but it's / you who fights, who could / blink away before I could // do anything." The fragility of life so present:
you might not wake--your breath
stopping dozens of times
throughout the night, heart
thudding to keep you alive.
In "What Keeps Us Here" are lines that remind us that we slip away:
Soon you'll sleep,
close your eyes to drift
through its uneasy thoroughfares,
its way stations and islands
of dream, terrain where your footing
slips, balance sliding out
from under you.
I wish Allison well in her ongoing grief, and thank her for these poems.