poetry book

Seven Floors Up by Cati Porter

7floors up cover (1)

.

By Stephen Page

Cati Porter’s Seven Floors Up is about wifehood, womanhood, and most expressively, adulthood.  Porter reveals in varied forms of verse the roles of a contemporary married mother.

            The narrator of the poems has a husband, two children, a cancer-ridden dog, a mother, a stepmother, a mother in law, and a couple of people in her extended family who are terminally ill.  She often reflects on how she got to where she is, and in her everyday occurrences she inadvertently divulges to the reader that being an adult means accepting responsibility and not showing that you are falling apart inside.  Protecting her children from every day scrapes and falls is big on her list of things to do.  To keep her life from getting heavy, she often looks for and finds the humorous things in her life.

This is a well-written book containing a good combination of serious and funny poems.  It is an interesting read for anyone.

.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Floors-Up-Cati-Porter/dp/093241267X

.

Stephen Page is the  author of “A Ranch Bordering the Salt River.”. He can be found at

https://smpages.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

Stain by Nathalie Anderson

Stain
.
Review by g emil reutter
.
“The Silver Stain,” they called it, this medieval innovation—
silver nitrate fired onto glass, turning a white surface
sallow, citron, saffron, sulfur—the silver alchemically
aping gold: a crown, a wing, a head of hair, an apricot
or palomino. No longer did the glazier need to cut
a separate slice of yellow, but could tint and fire and tint again—
       -First stanza – Stain: Six Meditations on the Craft
.
And so begins Nathalie Anderson’s Stain. The collection consists of four parts: “Stain”, “Wreckage”, “Crush”, and “Kyoto”. Like the craftsman noted in the above stanza, Anderson’s use of language in each section tints and fires and tints again.  
.
In the poem Revelation – Shatterings at Canterbury she writes: If God is a light inaccessible, /a light beyond our comprehension, then/how shall mere eyes see? Pierce our walls/ with windows, but shade them, shade them. /At Chartres, / light seeps ruby, light pools sapphire. At Sainte Chapelle, /it’s dazzling as diamond, all lux and lumen, / splendor in the glass. Anderson has the eye of a mature poet as this stanza brings the stained glass to life in the word of the shading, of light seeps and lights pools of splendor in the beauty of the glass transformed once again on the page.
 
The section “Wreckage” brings to life the photograph album of Elize Hodges FitzSimons, an album kept during the Second World War. A master of images, Anderson’s Secret Heart is stunning, such as the second stanza:
.
Why so mysterious? Against the dark,
Exuberance on exuberance: girls
who’d tell all. Friends like sister; sisters so close
they call each other always only “sister”; a man
grown so familiar, he’s wall, he’s furniture,
he’s shadow; a crowd so tight, who bothers with names?
.
And again in the second stanza of Old Flame:
.
The way he sits, canopied in forrest.
Live oak crowns him, crosses him; and Spanish moss
Scrawls over his white t-shirt, shawls his shoulders,
cauls his arm. She’s written by his picture, “Not
a cave man,” but he’s caverned, shadowed, primal.
.
She brings the photograph to life for the reader with no need for the reader to view it. Her improvisational writing and deliberate use of imagery brings the photograph to life in words.
.
The section “Crush” ends with an outstanding poem, Troll. The first stanza brings the reader under the bridge with the Troll.
.
Troll under her bridge, raw from clawing up
her rankling, swollen green with grudgery,
feeling on her spine each splintery plank,
each trip trap tramp, each neat little goat’s hoof.
She’s a cat-fit rash for rocketing, back
Always up, hackles always bristling. She’s
the worm in your apple, thorn in your flesh.
.
In the final section, Kyoto, Anderson brings the reader to Japan in a series of poems that confirms her position as both a realist and imagist. From the first stanza of Shisen-Do:
.
For every slightest quaking leaf, a gardener
to lull and hush it. For every flighty gust of green,
a gardener to sleek it, clip the wing. For every spree
of branching limb, a gardener to rein it, bend
back the wrist, twist the arm in. No sprig evades
their balding, no frond their fondest scrutiny.
.
Rakushisha
Poets’ Hut
House of Fallen Persimmons
.
So quick, the cloud flung
over the garden, trailing
its beaded fringe, that
delicate pelting.
.
Under the thunder,
falling suns, their heft
explosive, stormed to bursting:
coronas of succulence.
.
And then the moon,
all pocks and rots and bruisings.
It softens on my window sill:
ghost fruit.
.
Stain by Nathalie Anderson is lyrical with intense imagery driven by realism.
.
.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter
.
.

Tripping Over Memorial Day by David P. Kozinski

kozinski book
.
Review by g emil reutter
.
David Kozinski’s Tripping Over Memorial Day is a unique collection of poems combining urban grit and nature, of looking back and looking forward. In the poem Christmas 2010 Kozinski pens gentle realist imagery such as Half an hour before dark/there is no sailor’s delight on the horizon to The balm of forgetfulness/mutes the clang of language and in the last stanza, my father-in-law recites the gentlest hymn. /For him the most recent past dims/or disappears altogether/Our shaping moments/filtered, re-emerge into focus—His voice is quiet yet his observations are not sugar coated in this poem on aging.
In the poem First Christmas in Philadelphia Kozinski in the first three stanzas brings us into the grit of the city:  
.
Cut firs stood
in green fatigued
ranks on the corner
of the parking lot by the grocery
where gypsies hustled in the cold.
Every night the fire engines
roared down 44th Street
and teased
the news.
.
Forgotten are the reasons for this lullaby lush
with strings and sung clearly is paired
with finality of an abandoned
well, with the street smarted
calico I put to sleep
years later.
.
In a dark region
we are reunited, her white
fur gray with Sansom Street soot.
.
Into a Dark Land brings the reader face to face with immigration where only reflected light reaches corners/ baffled voices seep/through windowpanes and doorframes…the weight of sunrise and dusk/is an overcoat thrown off/and wings once dropped like sere leaves/unfold in a wakening field.
.
From the second stanza of Bailing:
.
my ancestors slip
in and out of trunks and portholes,
between the ribs and around the pipes;
            step on my tubes
of cobalt blue and mars black
with clodhoppers and grind
my bloodiest pencils into mud:
What Happened In Europe.
.
In Tripping Over Memorial Day he brings us into the muck in the last stanza with vivid images: It was swampy as Delaware/gets– dark, rubbery snakes/along the embankment, the river backing up like a clogged drain/birds restless in the dead air/under clouds that wouldn’t rain—a sermon proper for the abattoir.
.
Kozinski is an artist as well as a poet. He has given us a collection poems of not just words but of word painted from the palette of poet who has lived a full life and has keenly developed images such as this from the second stanza of Visitor:
.
Into the woods on a searing
summer morning it played
with reflections of overhanging boughs
and with my numbing hands
cupped so long in the slow motion water;
trailed across the sloppy stones
onto the mossy little island
I claimed as my own.
.
.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

New Release – 13 Poems from the Edge of Extinction – by Adrian Manning

Manning 13 Poems front COVER snip

.

“Adrian Manning has a phenomenal ability to transform words into pictures. I love the way he paints his poems, brushed with this highly surreal and emotional tone. His newest poetry collection is no exception. Read it and see for yourself.”

—Janne Karlsson

“These short poems do a ‘dance on your tongue,’ delivering a feast for the mind. I was drawn to them like a moth is drawn to the heat of a lightbulb. Taste them like a hummingbird tastes the nectar of a flower in bloom. Each poem is like a step ladder, each rung leading you to the next one. Food for thought, digest them as you would a warm meal on a cold winter night.”

—A.D. Winans

“When I read work by Adrian Manning I fully expect to be challenged, intrigued, entertained and surprised. This little book is no exception to the rule.”

—John Yamrus

“Adrian Manning is a live-wire from Leicester, England, an old school old soul poet/publisher. Stay on your toes because these lean poems punch well above their weight.”

—Kent Taylor

 

Adrian Manning’s 13 Poems from the Edge of Extinction is hand assembled and saddle stapled. It features white cover stock, pastel light yellow end papers and pastel ivory pages. Cover art by Kevin Eberhardt. 8.5 x 5.5″. 18 pp. Laser printed. ISBN: 978-1-940996-39-4. Limited 1st edition of 100 copies.

Check out the book here: http://ccpress.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/ManningCC87.html?m=1

 

Waiting For The Light

waiting
.
Alicia Suskin Ostriker is a poet who writes and lives in a city she loves with all its beauty and ugliness much like Charles Reznikoff, Suskin Ostriker is a walker. She writes of Upper Broadway, As the body of the beloved is a window/through which we behold the blackness and vastness of space/ pulsing with stars…  In this collection, it is the poems of Suskin Ostriker that pulsate with the passion of urban landscapes and polemical rendernings. Such as this from The Glory of Cities
.
Let us now praise famous cities, our human fists against heaven, let us praise
      their devotion to wealth and power and art, goals toward which we swim
          ferociously upstream, tearing ourselves apart, to lay our eggs and die
.
She writes of Biking to the George Washington Bridge:
.
It sweeps away depression and today
you can’t tell the heaped pin-white
cherry blossoms abloom along
Riverside Drive from the clouds above
.
A beautiful image from a poet who is an observer who casts her eyes upon life others may not see. Suskin Ostriker writes of the colorful quilt of her city, of immigrants from across the globe who have come here for a better life and hard work. Waiting for the Light is a collection of poetry full of praise, suffering and heartbreak. This is not a collection written through eyes covered in rose colored glasses but through eyes full of realism viewing the world and its landscapes of humanity.
 
You can find the book here: BookDetails
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

Amber Necklace from Gdańsk

 

amber
.

  

Reviewed by: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
 
 
Linda Nemec Foster reiterates this real and imagined theme of yearning and self-discovery throughout the four sections of Amber Necklace from Gdańsk.
 .
In poem after poem of sculptured landscapes of Old World and New, of Poland (before WW I) to USA of today, Linda Nemec Foster yearns for wholeness, yet knows that this severance of self the “she” (“the other self”) from the Old World will be never be found “in the New,” as in the appropriately titled poem, “Doppelgänger” she writes:
                            …A mere roll of the dice that I’m here
                            and she somewhere else
 .
                            …because a simple act of birth that place me
                            in suburbs south of Cleveland and
                            not in a town across the river from Oświęcim
 .
The last line of the poem puts the reader at a screeching, yet realistic halt:
                             …may we never recognize each other on street.
 .
 Is this an acceptance of harsh reality, of being born in Cleveland, Ohio “on the opposite side of the world” to first generation parents (whose grandparents left Poland) and the realism that she will never be able to experience or have lived the life of “the other self.”   I believe the last line of the poem is realistic; however, within every artist/poet there is imagination; there is the “what if” question; there is the wishful desire to have that which you know you can never really have.  As if, perchance, there could have been a meeting of the “other self,” that is if Fate could have allowed her to live a different life (she never knew), a life she could never truly know. Yet, the fact is she was destined to live here in Ohio, in the New.  It is this longing that exists – to have known a different life, to have been given an opportunity to be a different self “other self” in this opening poem that stays with the reader especially because of the powerfully ironic last line
                            …may we never recognize each other on street.
Can one re-unite the two? No, never, and if we could then would we be better off not knowing what life would have been like anyway.  A bit paradoxical? Absolutely!  The “longing” to be someone we could never be, yet at the same time thinking we should have at least had a “chance” at it. A choice, perhaps This is the unknown, the not knowing (that can never truly be satisfied); and that which a second generation girl/woman ponders, especially when one is blessed/cursed with a creativity poetic mind. A mind that questions.
 .
This is a book of interconnected narrative poems with an undertow of longing for a life we can never have. Therefore, the second poem, “Doppelgänger,” has set the stage for the remainder of the poems in this collection.  The fact is she was born here, but her love is reflected in poems about a family she knew and a family she will never really know.
 .
The poems roll into and out of each other with a constant pulling undertow of longing, which is never understated in her poems about people and places.  Each poem beautifully written, beautifully sad, hurts the reader deeply, because there’s a void which cannot be filled. Especially evident in the poem,
“The Immigrant’s Dream” where each of the three stanzas begin with “a recurrent dream” and ends with a woman’s voice whispering two very strong final words: “You’re home.”
 .
This wise archetypal dream woman trying to offer closure tells the immigrant “you’re home” to give the disconnected speaker peace, resolution.  Yet, there really is no peace, no closure for three generations of women, who must live without a sense of true peace; and it’s not just the woman speaker, who is displayed but it is her grandparents, parents, and her own son that carries the burden of loss. 
 .
This sense of loss, in more detail, is also relevant in the poem, “Young Boy in a Tenement House, Holding the Moon.”
                                He is anonymous as a fairy tale.
                             His bare feet could be my father’s
                             or perhaps my son’s…
 .
the speaker’s father and / or son’s feet, and as the poem continues it includes the boy’s mother –
                            his mother five flights up
                            keeping six kids at bay, waiting
                            for that basin of water…
 .
So it is at this turning point of generational weariness that a child sent for water for an awaiting mother and a large family of siblings that the poet allows the boy to express his inner feelings.  The boy in this poem uses his imagination to cope with the un-copeable and this is where Nemic Foster has the young boy’s basin become the moon.  The reader knows a round basin resembles a full moon, but what is so poetically crafted here is that the boy
 .
                            …smiles/ not for the camera, but to himself, as if he’s holding a captured moon
Here the “moon,” may appear subtle, but to Nemec Foster it not subtle at all, rather the skilled use and choice of the word “captured.” It is not used as a verb here, rather an adjective, and not a “capturing” moon,” but a “captured moon,” as if the child and his entire family residing in a tenement were in a “captured” state of existence, as new comers to a foreign land (America in lieu of Poland).  The moon is metaphorically alone in the darkness and “captured” (involuntarily) in a gravitational orbit.  Poland is now dead to him as the moon, as the “captured moon.”  Captured defined is “to take into one’s possession or control by force.”  Now, pushing the envelope further, the boy whispers to the moon,
                             and whispering to it, his breath
                             lost in its silver and dust:
                             księżyc, księżyc, latać,  latać, daleko.
 .
And before the translation, the poem is interrupted by an foreign language (Polish), not English, because the boy and his siblings, mother, and possibly his extended family (grandparents, great-grandparents) are all displaced in America, not only by their residence in a tenement house, but by language itself. Now, the last two translated lines in English, as the last to lines of this poem:
                             Moon, moon, fly away, fly away,
                             and please, take me with you.
Here, the child’s plea, “please take me with you” to my real home, because the moon can see all, Poland and America, and the child is homesick for something he cannot have.
 .
The aforementioned poems are in the very beginning of Section I – Conjuring Up the Landscape and in continuing in that section Nemec Foster writes poems about her father learning to count in English; immigrant child at school; “The Old Neighborhood”; her mother, “The Silent One,” etc.  and ends the section with the poem, “Sitting in America at the End of the Century” with these last very painful lines (both in Polish and English) addressing her grandparents (Maria and Tomasz, Zofia and Franciszek)in the poem’s last stanza:  
                             … A distant granddaughter surrounded by cars,
                            longing for a language that’s more akin to damp
                            earth than linguistics, stuttering in a tongue
                            so natural to them they know what she’s trying
                            to say, even before the halting words
                            leave her lips.  Bardzo mi przykro,
                             nie wiem. I am sorry, I know nothing.
 .
A real page turner, so captivating that you, the reader, become engrossed with each poem, as I have; but you must continue onward with a reverent, dirge-like pace through the remaining three sections, as they will hypnotize you as well.  She is allowing their voices and her voice to be heard, so you can learn of the honesty, integrity, and beauty of each lived life. These narrative-memoir poems tell the familial immigrant stories of her grandparents and parents and also Nemec Foster’s very own second-generation story of, mentally and physically, crossing the Atlantic from America to Poland and then back to America again.
 .
Since I have elaborated in Section I, I will try to consolidate the remaining three sections, and this is not to diminish those sections, no, not at all, but in order not to make this – a too long review. 
Section II – The Rivers of Past and Present;  Section III- Dark Amber of Regret; &  Section IV – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss will keep the reader totally engaged.  I will pick one poem from each section to focus upon, as briefly as I can, in order to do justice to both poet and poem.
 .
Section II– The Rivers of Past and Present has four prose poems, with the exception of the poem, “The Two Rivers in My Story.” Once again these poems do not spare the reader their emotional empowerment, with an intense flow of prosaic images, narratives, and truths felt by a transplanted poet.  America’s Cuyahoga River aligns, yet conversely misaligns with Poland’s Vistula River – just as the past aligns, yet conversely misaligns to the present, at least in Nemec Foster’s telling of rivers and time in her prosaic poem, “The Women with the Two Rivers Growing from Her Hair” (wonderful title). Here, Nemec Foster recounts a “true” story told to her by her mother about her grandmother, Maria.
 .
                  …I know it’s true because my mother told me that her mother saw it with her own two  eyes.                  
.
Interestingly enough, oral history imagined or true is prevalent among immigrant families and serves as a connective thread often linking one generation to the next, especially in this story of women.
 .
     Maria, my mother’s mother with green eyes who died long ago, whom I never knew, but could only imagine.
 .
Without giving the total story away here are some lines of her grandmother’s story told by Nemec Foster’s mother to her, whereby the flow of the women of her family and the flow of rivers align and misalign with each other.
 .
              One day she decided to leave her mother, her father, all her sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends and come to the New World and live in America.
 .
Her grandmother settled in Ohio in a boarding house near the Cuyahoga River and it took her weeks to pronounce the river’s name.
 .
She especially loved the sound of the city’s river, Cuyahoga, even though it took her many weeks before               she could even begin to pronounce it. …As if trying to will the river into her tiny bedroom on the third                    floor of Mrs. Okasinski’s boarding house.
 .
The grandmother’s dream of the Vistula River in Poland, where she turns into a mermaid.  A straight up metaphor, why, because oral tradition and the imagination usually go hand-in-hand.
 .
           She was a mermaid swimming in the deep, clear waters of her homeland, the Vistula River.  Her legs had              turned into one huge fin, her beautiful hair had become filmy seaweed.  Even her green eyes had turned                into the blue-white of mother-of-pearl.
 .
Nemec Foster hits the comparisons hard: Old World – Poland vs. New World – America; Vistula River vs. Cuyahoga River; the Past vs. the Present; and then with her brilliant choice of poetic language, the Simile
 – “like” for comparative purposes. 
 .
              The Vistula flowed around her like scattered diamonds.  For the first time since leaving  Poland, she felt homesick.  In the morning when she awoke, the rain was still falling, like  drops of a river from the sky.
 .
In finishing this comparative poem, there’s unification and /or a blending of the two separate entities into the one identity, separate but united in the poem’s summation:
.
 Her long, golden hair had explicably transformed into the two rivers she loved so much:  blue Vistula of the fish-maid; green Cuyahoga of the exotic song. They flowed from her head like twin cascades of the past and present, the old and the new.
 .
And finally Nemec Foster’s heart wrenching metaphors provide hidden similarities between her grandmother and / or immigrant women and their descendants, directly and poetically equating them to river/water images:
 .
                 Some say the woman disappeared into the rivers that claimed her.  Some say she  walked into the rain and became the rain. And some refuse to believe that a woman’s hair can change into the waters of two rivers by mere act of a strange dream.  But then,  they don’t know the woman.
 .
Section III- Dark Amber of Regret succeeds II, but not with prosaic poems, rather 13 shorter poems. These poems – move the reader along the high wire of regret and longing, looking at each side Old – New, Poland – America, as if the speaker, a high wire walker were treading very carefully in a world where a fine wire-thin-line exists; and they must forever walk the path of an “examined” life with no real resolution, one always existing alongside the other.  This disconnection between two world’s trying to connect is stated in the first lines of the poem “Moje Rozwiane Włosy” where the East is separated from the West:
.
                            Beyond any control of the East /West border,
                            Oder/Neisse line, the arbitrary demarcations
                            of free market and fixed economy, my hair
Here the speaker, I, uses the image of her “hair” to connect her.
At the beginning of the poem:
.
                             …my hair
                             my hair has become wild, electric halo that refuses…
and at the end of this poem:
                             …My hair, my wild hair,
                            wanting to be a braided rope that connects the two.
 .
The hair image of the “I” speaker resonates back to the grandmother, Maria, and her “long, golden” braided hair (Section II, above). The speaker (probably Nemec Foster, herself) using a very womanly image of her hair is trying to connect the disconnect.  Actually the braiding of three long individual strands (daughter, mother, grandmother) into one braid connects the three women together in their two distinct worlds.
 .
I would be remiss not to state that Section III’s poems are extremely musical as a whole.  Many stanzas like verses of songs binding many voices together, as if each poem the voice of an instrument, a symphony playing melodiously together. Lovely musical titles too, and poems enriched with naturalistic settings containing names and colors of flowers and trees, such as “Mazovian Willows – Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9” (Chopin exiled from Poland); “Song of Sorrow – On Listening to Gorecki’s Third Symphony “ (written as a rhythmic Villanelle);  After the War: Purple Flowers Spilling from the Window;” etcetera.  There is one very daunting poem, “Chapel of Skulls – Czermna, Poland” that does not fit the uplifting musical category of many of the others in this section.  It is realistically and humanistically devastating, more funereal.  I believe this poem a silent reminder to Nemec Foster that despite her families disconnect from Poland, there would be nothing more terrible then for her family to have been in Poland during WW I and WW II.  Not just our own deaths, as the poem reminds us in America and Europe, but the reminder of the
                             …mass graves at Katyn
                             or the empty crematorium at Auschwitz
                             can prepare you for this.
 .
Nothing can ever really prepare you for “this” meaning death.
 .
Further, the last poem of Section III is the book’s title – “Amber Necklace from Gdańsk” and this poem echoes back to the braided hair, but this time three
.
                             strands of the past braided around my neck.
                             White amber of memory, gold amber of song, dark amber of regret.
 .
So, three colors of amber as memory, song, and regret are braided appropriately, as title of this book of poems.
 .
Section IV – This last section moves through character and place poems, but the reader is struck by the last three lines of the last poem, “Dancing with my sister.”  Here the poet not only echoes back to this Section’s title – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss –but concludes the book appropriately as follows:
                             We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
                             of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
                             at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.
 .
Linda Nemec Foster and her sister have truly learned to smile despite loss and the reader gallops along with Linda and her sister “to the Beer Barrel Polka” with “RESPECT” for the glowing women they have become in America.  In the second-generation immigrants’ fight for recognition, Linda Nemec Foster has won the braided Amber Necklace from Gdańsk glowing with three “tears (tiers) of the sun” around her neck.

.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011), Lights Battered Edge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, 2016) – available at Amazon. Her poems have appeared in a number of online and print publications.  Awarded a grant in poetry from the AEV Foundation in 2013, and named the winner of the Working People’s Poetry Competition, 2015, she has served as Poet in Residence at Ryerss Museum and Library and as Poetry Editor of the Fox Chase Review.

Visit her at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com  and https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

Time Extends Life To Those Who Survive

feast

(Click on title for full screen view)

.

Review by Thaddeus Rutkowski

.

These poems, written by Jim Feast and addressed to his wife Nhi Chung, are full of passion, sensuality and physicality. Feast and Chung might be in many ways ordinary people, but the poems bring out a side that is extraordinary.
.
Feast, a professor and member of the Unbearables group of writers in New York, tells us in his preface that he met Chung at New York City Technical College, where they both were working (she as a secretary, he as a tutor). On one occasion, she asked him to read a paper she wrote. It was the story of her escape from Vietnam by water. Her ability to swim saved her. Not surprisingly, the story caught Feast’s attention; he found Nhi “fascinating, charming and sexy.” Complicating matters, however, was the fact that Feast was engaged at the time and Chung was married (and pregnant). The book takes off from there.
.
The first section covers the early days of Feast and Chung’s relationship, as seen in this poem, “Nhi and Patty (or Vice Versa)”:
 .
A brief, stringy cup of coffee
            tawny, ruddy at points, whitish, brackish
            a kind of orange, inside the peel.
            all those colors
            are in her skin
.
brown eyes with a trace of green like a fir in the dark
            the whites, straight across, but a little narrower at the pointed end
            wearing a coat too long in the sleeves, and cheap, a grainy fabric, mica
 .
the way she comes up the street, let’s describe that.
            her legs are striding but the actual step is not long, feet planted as firmly
                        as the expression on her mouth.
            Patty waits for her.
            “It’s good to see you,” she says,
            then hesitates over whether to kiss her on the cheek.
            “And how are you?” Nhi says. “How are you,
            Peggy”?
.
I like the way the poem moves from a description of coffee—and secondarily an orange peel—to a description of skin. Similarly, the image of “a fir (tree) in the dark” works as metaphor for a woman’s eyes. Then, in the third stanza, the poem becomes a story. The woman the poet has been observing walks up the street and meets another woman. We learn their names and discover that the poet is describing his new flame, Nhi, as she meets his fiancée, Patty. The punchline is that when they greet each other, Nhi gets Patty’s name wrong. It could be a typical language-barrier lapse—or a signal that these two will never be friends.
.
            Later in the book, the poems become more philosophical, confirming that the poet’s understanding and appreciation of his partner have deepened.
.
Here is a later poem, titled “Gum Sik,” which means “Golden.”
.
You’re like a tiger on a burning bridge.
You’re like an eagle landing on a ledge,
the eagle of truth that never breaks her pledge.
 .
You’re like a teacup that is filled with rice.
You’re like a goddess that averts her eyes.
.
How much the future involves the past.
How much the first time involves the last.
It may be painful but it is our task.
 .
First, I notice the rhymes, which appear (uncharacteristically here) at the ends of lines, instead of internally. They are interesting rhymes, imperfect in places, as with “bridge” and “ledge,” “rice” and “eyes,” and “last” and “task.” They pull the reader through the poem, just as a catchy song pulls the listener along to the next verse.
.
But what is important is the meaning. The poet evokes powerful images or, more accurately, images filled with power. A tiger, an eagle and a goddess all have great, non-human strength. Yet the person addressed in this miniature ode is, I’m guessing, just a person, made mythic in the poet’s eyes. The imagery is not all large; there is also the humble teacup.
.
The third and last stanza transitions into a meditation on time (the theme of the book’s title) and how we experience it. To Feast, points in time exist almost simultaneously (“the first time involves the last”). And “our task,” which I read as “anyone’s task,” can be difficult, yet it is there, immovable and un-ignorable.
 .
Throughout the book, I was taken with the poet’s use of sharp, playful, suggestive language, as well as his focus on his own experience. Feast has been lucky to be part of a love relationship that joins two complex people, from separate but long-established cultures.
.
You can find the book here: Time Extends Life to Those Who Survive
.

Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the fiction collectionViolent Outbursts (Spuyten Duyvil) and the novels Haywire (Starcherone/Dzanc), Tetched(Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). All three novels were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award, and Haywire won the Members’ Choice Award, given by members of the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York. Haywire reached No. 1 on Small Press Distribution’s fiction best-seller list. Tetched was chosen as one of the best books reviewed in 2006 by Chronogram magazine. Thaddeus Rutkowski