The Girl Who Quit at Leviticus by Suzanne Rhodenbaugh

The Girl Who Quit at Leviticus by Suzanne Rhodenbaugh

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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The Girl Who Quit at Leviticus by Suzanne Rhodenbaugh is a slim tome published by Homestead Lighthouse Press in Grants Pass, Oregon. In fifty-seven pages of thoughtful. irreverent, and unsentimental observation, Rhodenbaugh explores universal themes of faith love, death in addition to flowers in a mixed variety of poetic forms.
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In her poem, Religious Preference on page five, Rhodenbaugh presents two stanzas and an ending couplet that explores a relationship with God but suggests an earthy connection. The poem is evocative, focused and well controlled reversing the one who is face down on the ground with the worshipped God.  Are we talking faith here or is this poem suggestive of desire and lust or both? Word choices such as trough of love and manageable tick suggest animals and bugs which are not usually associated with love.  But the poem gives attitude.  The narrator in the poem is not just a beast feeding or kneeling, but a thinking being who is demanding. I like the clarity and form of the poem.  It put a smile on my face as I visualized God in tight jeans at a Biker Bar ready for game.
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I don’t want to feed
at the trough of love.
I don’t want to wait or stand.
I don’t want to kneel
before a prostrate God,
or a manageable tick
in a blurred white sky.
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I want a sky that is hot and blue,
God in pants, and full of the devil.
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In her StoryFlowers poem beginning on page fourteen, she gives the reader a series of definitions
that tell flower stories.  The first stanza titled Iris is just two lines.
Once I was all lips and tongue.
Now I am a fist.
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She continues this story telling through fourteen different flowers for example Petunias on page seventeen.
Droopy Daliesque trumpets,
until the sun plays them
up.
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All the stanzas are short in this poem and focus on an observable suggestion of a flower’s personality in the garden.  This is both a fun and serious poem.
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The title poem, The Girl Who Quit at Leviticus, on page fifty, begins at a day camp.
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A blue spot shone on the Methodist Youth Camp
Counselors acting out
Smoking, Drinking, Cussing,
sin blue as a saloon. …
The narrator, after observing the actions of the holy counselors in the first stanza, resolves in the second to read the whole Bible in one year.  In the third stanza, the speaker says:
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The Devil, who wasn’t big on Methodists,
never took me.  There was no Big Fall.
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In seven stanzas the narrator goes from a pony tailed girl who strays into other good books like The Black Stallion and The Return of the Black Stallion to a young woman who becomes more aware of life through reading.  She reads tales of mystery and slaughter, Into love and dark achievement.  Because of these other readings separate from the Good Book, she says in the last stanza:
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whereby I missed the angels,
and the pale horses of Revelations.
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The poem is well controlled using the common space and time of an innocent girl with a big goal becoming distracted with the love of reading as she grows up. The poem represents faith interrupted but not abandoned.  Rhodenbaugh has a light touch with a serious subject, and it works.
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Rhodenbaugh has an unsentimental approach to traditionally sentimental themes.  Her attention to both detail and form works well throughout.  The poems mix levity with solemn subjects which creates a question of how loud you should laugh, how quiet should you cry. This is an interesting group of poems worth traveling through.
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The Girl Who Quit at Leviticus is available from www.homesteadlighthousepress.com
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 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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