SPRING 2015: "Pixelated and Wanting"
"to those who know the plumber's number"
The Fool Sings by Weslea Sidon (Miami, FL: Rain Chain Press, 2014) 86 pages, softbound. ISBN 978-0-9888978-0-9 $16
The fifty poems in Weslea Sidon's inaugural collection work in various modes, all of them engaging in their own right. In many, Sidon muses on life's vagaries. "I keep losing things," the title and opening line of the first poem declare, which is followed by a list of a few of the missing items, ranging from car keys to "the state of grace that comes/to those who know the plumber's number/or the limits of anticipation." That's some righteous writing there, rhythmic, musical, with an edgy humor, too.
Some of these poems tell stories. "Big Girl" is a portrait of a young woman who wants to fit in with her more worldly older friends, who welcome her to their circle until "their talk turned sexy," at which point she is shooed off. She emulates them, learning how to "cover matches in the wind" to light a cigarette. She accepts, and even ups the ante, on their taunts till they take her in. A little life lesson in perseverance.
In "Eve," one of the stand-outs in the book, Sidon manages to take that Genesis story so popular among artists and writers and give it something of a makeover—an update, really. The first lady now tends her own garden while fat-cat Adam "mutters that he's tired/and hungry and knows the soup/is burning." In the end this life suits her: "she coddles her patience/waits for her seedlings to show."
Sidon writes movingly about her mother ("Sea Breeze," "Coffee," "Perigee Moon"); she captures the moods of Maine and her home on Mount Desert Island ("Showers Likely in the North," "Fog," "Just Getting Home," "Cabin Fever"); and she takes her prompts from a range of sources: miniature golf, a Chinese take-out place, opera on the radio, a yoga class.
In "Useful Information," Sidon riffs on the various tables of data one finds on the backs of composition notebooks. In section 5 of the poem, "Table of Circular Measure," she offers this "fact":
If the diameter of a love song is longer than the melody of its existence the song will be unresolved.
Occasionally, a poem fails to fulfill the promise of its title—"The Bereavement Group Talks about Sex," for example, offers a rather mundane account of a past relationship. By contrast, the simply titled "Good Advice" doesn't prepare you for the glass-shattering anger management guidance the poem proffers. And "What She Said, Just Before Closing" offers a marvelous starting thought to a reflection on a particular point in life: "I am getting too old to die young."
Once in a while Sidon draws on "poetic" language to deliver an image, such as in these lines from "Insomnia": "dance the incubus beyond/the realms/of sanguinary lullaby." More often the language is direct, as in "Buying Ice Cream in an April Snow." Travelers watch a counter girl "scoop and press and pull" as they linger "between chosen and unchosen cold." It is a gem in a collection that contains many.
Handing Out Apples in Eden by Malisa Garlieb (Shelburne, Vermont: WindRidge Books, 2014), 82 pages, paper. ISBN: 978-1-935922-57-5 US$15.95
The sly subversion in the title grabbed my interest right off; and too, the cover picture—not the irresistibly red and poisonous apple of wicked stepmothers, not Virago's greedily bitten apple nor the golden apples of eternal youth. This is a green apple, crisp and tart, that put me in mind of those apples that are goddess symbol of bravery, growth and hidden magick:
fruit of Eve, fruit of childhood: Eat all the apples, the all of apples— pips of poison, petal flesh, and witch's stars within.
The imagery in the poetry dwells often on fruit—on pears and plums and blueberries and on a bushel of bruised apples—and it suggests too, a perfidious Adam as disruptor of the Eden of the modern marriage that unravels to divorce in the pages of the book. This addressed to him:
our love is disappointment— each apple bruised and wormy and I desire your weight still
But to the beginning: the book opens with a poem in which "a stutterer introduces herself," and this evocation of fluency,
. . . blocked again again again, the repetitions of Ma- Ma- Ma- might call to mind the bleat of judged goats in the grandstand . . .
makes interesting introduction to the tale of false starts and journeys of love and marriage that become trapped, disoriented and helpless behind a reluctant
. . . mechanical latch holding back the tin tine that plays the music of mute clowns . . . red lipstick smear[ing] all the M's.
The title poem, "Handing Out Apples in Eden," colours the scene of the story to follow:
She wore red silk to her own wedding— a wedding her mother would not attend because the other bride wore blue.
Then follows poetry of eroticism and love, "Blueberry Season", but, like the rose bush that bears just one rose among all its brambles, with too-soon hints of disquiet for the future:
The technique of thumb rolling across fingers, fingers then parting to receive fruit reminds me how you touched my nipples. The tight twist, one chord of the exquisite circle . . . . . . Last January our touch couldn't catch though my body cheated it and ripened by routine. I kept checking the pantry of our marriage. Had enough been put away, is there enough to last? Twelve lids sealed to glass, all the rims twisted tight.
Threaded through poems imaged with the detail of rural farmlands, a faithless lover appears and then withdraws to his own wife, a marriage dissolves into divorce, a shared home is exchanged for a basement flat, possessions are divided and all that is left is the fruit of the marriage, the
child who cannot / be split, but somehow must be shared.
The entire middle section of the collection dwells on this boy, the child salvaged from the divorce, focus of the new life without lover. The disintegration and rebuilding of lives is explored with continued, distressed, images of the fruit of life:
Apples are falling out of my control. I pick a few each day.
Yet at last, in another poem about apples tumbled to the ground by the wind, some sense of acceptance of human frailties, and even for
. . . those on the ground— there is tenderness for those that fall, a bending in the sour clover.
The poet completes her journey by drawing together Matisse and the Dominican nun, Sister Jacques-Marie who he famously painted (Green Dress and Oranges) in a lyrical question-and-answer poem that explores friendship and colour, understand and love and concludes:
. . . what is love? Brilliant vestments and bandage. No regrets. AVE./
And so closing her magical circle of regrowth despite the imperfections of the world.