Palm Lines by Jonathan Koven

palm lines
By Lynette G. Esposito
Palm Lines by Johnathan Koven published by Toho Publishing LLC in Philadelphia is an interesting tome of forty-nine pages of poems that flow like stories in a guided stream.  The poems are complex in both imagery and interpretive meaning which makes the reader want to take a second or third read to discover how it all fits together.
For example, the three-stanza poem on page thirteen Drowned in the Eye of the Equinox, uses the narrative of a beast suffering from rabies who is affected by nature in ways acknowledged by an insane thinker.  If the reader interprets the beast to be a season, it takes on a whole different set of possibilities.
                            The moon opens.  My eyes rotate
                              to reproach my insides.
                              The pith’s fumes sing, Reduce me,
                              with their sour breaths.
                              A new month has come, another
                              empty emblem of resurrection.
What is the narrator seeing?  It is night and this poem places the reader in the forest but it does not feel safe.  The image of the moon opening and the eyes rotating sets a tone of eerie doom.
This is the first stanza of this macabre poem and it sets the time, tone. and place.  The second stanza is more specific on what the place looks like and also hints at the time of year.
                              Pines and oaks starve thin;
                              horizon or blanket of cinder,
                              it does not matter anymore.
                             More shadow has spilled over
                             from dawn. Old rain covers
                             everything until tomorrow.
The third stanza closes the poem with a suggestion of coming sorrow from planting the rabid seed in a child or the impression that the season and/or the child is the rabid seed.
                          The season dies a rabid animal,
                          Hiccupping, seizing, Remember me.
                           I cannot be careful tonight,
                           my fire extinguished:
                           a crying child,
                           a seed.
The poem is certainly open for interpretation.  Who or what is the narrator and is the seed implanted or is the child the seed and the seed of what, the season or the Equinox?  The imagery works well and is fresh. Endings and beginnings are skillfully mixed together. The tone of the poem is surprising calm for all that is happening on the night the moon opens.
Another poem of similar complexity is Photograph of Visible Light on page thirty-six.
                              A small family
                              sits in my heart, quiet
                              at a kitchen table
                              in darkness
                             One bird
                             speaks outside the window
                             They listen
                             The lonely child lingers long
                             Does it hurt less
                             if I sleep?
                            The question’s answer
                            holds no promise
                            of ever being known.
The poem has created a visible scene inside the narrator’s heart and it is drenched in apprehension. The poem does not answer but suggests and Koven creates a complexity of interpretation that asks the reader to seek the promise of knowing.
The book is divided into three parts following the lines of the palm:  Life Line, Heart Line, and Head Line.  The book also has impressionistic visuals in full color with dominant colors of blue and gray. I particularly like this book because the images and concepts are fresh and interesting. Koven has skillfully intermingled the common with the extraordinary and this volume is a pleasure to read.
 Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

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