Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s Affect

These are dense poems, packed with imagery, emotion, and sensualness. A long, slow read, I lingered over every word—each affecting, not one I would extract. Reading “The Handheld Mirror of the Mind” is like reading a novel, the kind that after you pick it up and begin reading, you are reluctant to set it down.

#bookOfPoems #DianeSahmsGuarnieri #TheHandheldMirroroftheMind Kelsay Books

https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com

 

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What Narcissism Means to Me by Tony Hoagland

North of Oxford

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By Stephen Page
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After I read What Narcissism Means to Me, I wished I had chosen The Donkey Gospels.  Glancing through the other, after I read the first, I sense more immediacy.  Nonetheless, I arbitrarily chose to study Narcissism, will accept my choice, and thus I shall report.  It’s a great book.  A good read.  The structure is interesting, with America, Social Life, Blues, and Luck as titles of the four sections, as if that were the hierarchy from top to bottom for self identity.  The poems are narrated sarcasticly, ironically, self-loathingly.  The point of the collection is to show that when the self is the center of the universe and the ego presides over community and society, problems arise—racism, dictatorships, presidents taking self-motivated actions without concern for the people.  Hoagland portrays the narrator, the “I” of the poems, as narcissistic, but this is aptly a tool for…

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October, by Louise Glück

October
By Louise Glück
Quarterback Chapbook Series
Sarabande Books. $8.95. 20 pages.
Reviewed by Stephen Page

Autumn After the Fall

October CoverWhile I as reading Louise Glück’s chapbook “October”, I noted a theme that threaded throughout the poem–aftermath. October has always been a special month for me. A time of change. A time of clarity. It begins with the autumnal colors in full show and ends with the trees bare and sometimes a first snowfall. I remember October well when I was growing up. It was a month of crystal cognizance. The air smelled of damp earth and drying leaves. Each breath I took cleared my mind and brought in focus my sense of being with the world. I felt good. But, there was also this lurking feeling of finality. Another year had passed. Summer was over.  I often asked myself, had I done what I wanted to do this past year, or was I in the same place is was last year? Had I accomplished what I needed to accomplish? Most often, I had mixed feelings, yeses and no’s, a sort of sweet melancholy–sad that the year was over but happy that another year was about to begin. I had another year to do what I wanted to do. Yes, as a child, the New Year was always in October, not in January. It was an end, and a beginning. Winter was on the way and, yes, it would be cold. There would be snow. But, snow to me meant snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels, snow-caves cut out in the banks on the side of the road that the snowplows piled up, and of course, snow days—those special breaks from school. Winter represents death to many people, but it meant fun and rest for me. Trees, plants, grass–they weren’t dead, they were just resting, sleeping late, waiting to wake up in spring and flourish in summer. After winter, there was spring and summer vacations, baseball, girls.

Life on earth is measured in seasons and renews itself yearly. For Glück, as I think it is for most North–Hemispherians, October is a sad month, but one that also has hope.

Part I of “October” goes like this:

It is winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted

didn’t the nether end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn’t my body
rescued wasn’t it safe

didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted—

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t the vines climb down the south wall

I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground

I can no longer care
what sounds it makes

when I was silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can’ change what it is—

didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted

didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?

Something obviously traumatic has passed here. A scar has formed, terror has happened, something was planted but is no longer there (and I think it is more than just plants in the garden) for the “wind whistled over the bare ground.” The narrator was devastated by an occurrence, so much so she was “silenced.” Most notable is the poem’s form—short lines, long sentences—making the poem appear tall.

The entire poem continues like that–short lines, tall poem. And the there is a horrible sensation of after-violation sliding down the poem:

Violence has changed me . . . (repeated twice in part II)
everything that was taken away . . .
you can’t touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened . . .
My body has grown cold . . .
balm after violence . . .
Tell me I am living,
I won’t believe you.
Death cannot harm me
more than you have harmed me . . .
the light has changed . . .
you will not be spared . . .
the unspeakable//has entered them . . .
I strained, I suffered . . .
So much has changed . . .

Yes, something has happened, and I don’t just think it is the harvest. Because of the form of the poem, and some of Glück’s references, it seems something very tall has come down, or collapsed. Something that was once there no longer is:

They eye gets used to disappearances . . .
Above the fields,
above the roofs of the village houses,
the brilliance that made all life possible
Become the cold stars.

Glück might be talking about an object, a tall structure (or structures, if you notice the plural is used in the relation between the words “disappearances” and “become”), or she might be talking about ideals (as she refers to often in part IV). She might be talking about both. Whatever the case, she uses the barren-field association of the month of October as representation of something monumental that no longer exists on the horizon. A careful reader will note that October obviously comes after September, and that two monumental somethings fell once in the month of  September.  Glück does spy a kind of hope though, as she leaves the poem on a positive note

my friend the moon rises:
she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful?

This Review first published in: Gently Read Literature

Read the review on the Issuu site: Gently Read Literature Issuu and turn to page 18.

Places/Everyone by Jim Daniels

Places/Everyone

By Jim Daniels

The University of Wisconsin Press

Reviewed by Stephen Page

everyoneReading Places/Everyone will take you back home.  You will drive through your old neighborhood where you grew up, shop at K-Mart, visit a pallet factory where you once worked, eat lunch in the break room, take a drive around the shop on a Hi-Lo, guzzle a six-pack with your friends out back in a vacant lot.  O.K.  Not everyone was born in Detroit, but most people have held at least one blue-collar job in their life.  The poems in this collection set in the 1970’s and 80’s—and for that reason they are dated, but they read as though they have become timeless.  The characters are menial laborers, factory workers, union-job holders, burger flippers.  Daniels captures the entrapment felt by the middle class dupe, the working-class hero, the minimum wage worker, the assembly line jockey—almost anyone who has worked for a weekly paycheck.

“My Father Worked Late” depicts a Detroit working person’s dilemma, that is, each day could bring feast or famine, overtime or lay-off.  A household earner usually had to work two jobs or overtime to pay the bills.  It is stressful and tiring:

Some nights when he wasn’t too tired

he took off his shirt

and sat in the middle of the floor.

We wrestled, trying to pin

back his arms, sitting on his chest

digging our heads into the yellow stains

under the arms of his t-shirt…………..

he sat up, cradling us both in headlocks

in the closest thing to an embrace

that I remember……..

Other nights  he looked right through us

mechanically eating his late dinner

yelling at anything that moved.

Some mornings we woke to find him

asleep on the couch, his foreman’s tie twisted

into words we couldn’t spell.

We ate our cereal as carefully as communion

Until our mother shook him ready for another day.

This poem shows the acceptable behavior of that time between a father and the rest of the family.  The man was usually, but not always, the sole breadwinner of the family. His role was to make money, not provide love.  There was not much demonstration of affection between a father and his children.  The father in this poem is probably no longer intimate with his wife either, for he sleeps “sometimes” on the couch.  This detached behavior is too much to handle for this father, and his days often end in depressive stupors and irate snapping at his family.

A number of the working men’s wives work, but only at minimum wage jobs:

Some of the wives work now

behind counters at McDonald’s

marking clothes at K-Mart

pulling in minimum wage

grocery money for another week.

And most of them do it only after the husbands have been laid off:

Up and down the streets

men mow their lawns

do yard work

many  try to grow vegetables.

From the title of the poem, “Hard Times in the Motor City,” it is obvious that this is not just Saturday lawn work, nor a reflection of nurturing natures.  It is men without jobs.  They keep busy by working in their yards.  Many men turn to drink as an outlet:

In the bar

Steve talks about

The afternoon movie….

He says he’ll dig ditches

or clean shitholes

all he wants is a job.

He’s got a wife, two kids,

He looks me hard in the eye:

“a man can always afford a drink.”

Of course, the irony being that turning to alcohol can result in procrastination and justification of spending money needed to pay for family food.  It’s a downward spiral.  Work less, drink more, squander money.  Drink more, squander money, work less.

How does having no job affect behavior ?  In “No Job”:

He pulls out

all the bushes in his yard

swinging a shovel at the roots.

He chases away the paperboy.

Television smashed in the driveway.

His wife hides from the neighbors.

No, no, no jobs:

He throws his knife in the air.

Frustration, frustration, frustration.   Of course it does not help that most workers are not college educated, and cannot move out of their world.  Most had only three choices when they finished high school, go to work for one of the Big Three:

High school, toking behind auto shop

parking lot sticky in the heat.

Ford, Chevy (GM), Chrysler—

where you gonna work?

The second section of the book is attention-grabbing because Daniels turns to second-person point-of-view, a technique not always easy to pull off.  Daniels does it well, and brings the reader into the world of the working-class stiff.  Digger, the main character of the section, becomes the man we all love to hate.  He is obnoxious, crude, rude, and rough around the edges—but with second-person as his ally, we the readers readily empathize with him.

In Diggers’ first poem, he is in a traffic jam on his way to work, worried whether he is going to make it on time or not.  It is not until we get to the line: “Maybe you’ll be late for work after all” that you realize he is kind of hoping he will be late.  He is a man going to a job he hates, but he is going anyway.  I am reminded of walking to school, hoping there would be an accident or some natural catastrophe that would make me late, for no other reason than to be late.  However, I knew if I were late, I would be in trouble, so I kept walking, conforming to the rules but at the same time, wanting to break them.

In “ Diggers Thanksgiving” we have a man whose parents are senile, probably at too young an age, and Digger thinks:

You think of putting them in a home.

You remember as a child

pulling the wings off flies:

so delicious, so delicious.

What can you do?  How does anybody justify doing something unpleasant?  Become apathetic?  Hardened?

What does a person do when they feel trapped in their lives?  How do he or she think?  Probably, something like this:

The sky darkens into night

while you shovel and lift

the wet thinning snow…..

you bend down again

for the heart attack

you know will kill you.

Digger experiences the feast/famine predicament too:

You drink beer after beer

on your porch staring

at your sun-scorched lawn

on our first weekend off

in two months.

Your neighbor’s lawn mowers growl

at you from all directions

If it don’t grow

                        Then I don’t have to cut it,

You think, but lift yourself

at last out of the broken rungs

of your chair and move

toward the side of the house…

you unweave the hose tangled

from the girls’ water fight

like it’s a rope on a ship—

you are in a late movies you saw last week—

you are on the ocean and this rope

anchors you down.

Suddenly the hose unkinks

and squirts you in the face.

It’s not salt water,

not fresh.

You stand in the driveway

watering the lawn, garden

the side of the house

holding the limp hose,

pissing on everything.

Digger is working overtime.  His first weekend off in two months and what does he have to do?  Take care of his lawn, that status symbol lying in front of his house that shows everyone in the neighborhood who he is, how he conforms to the norm.  He must maintain your lawn.  It is expected.  Most effective about this poem is Daniels’ choice of words at particular times. The “mowers growl” shows how Digger feels they are nagging him to get to his lawn work.  Then, “ holding the limp hose,” reveals Digger’s feeling of impotence.  Finally,  “pissing on everything.” tells how digger still can remain defiant in his thoughts.

In part three of the collection we go back to the first person.  “Short Order Cook,” one of the best of the collection, is a wonderful poem about the pride and ambitions of the minimum-wage worker.  But in the next poem, the cook reveals his feelings of helplessness:

“I don’t need to be smart

to work here.”

The grease sticks to my skin

A slimy reminder

Of what my future holds.

Places/Everyone is an exceptional first book.  Daniels’ voice is young, but not immature—it resonates with the authority of one who has worked many jobs and seen many places. Daniels’ language is simple, but that renders the personae in the poems.  Digger, the main character, portrays the typical working-class Joe—the internal rebel and the external conformist, the one who gets up early to go to work everyday even when he feels the job is not what he should be doing—and that reveals the main theme of the book—conformity. You will enjoy Daniels’ depictions of Motor City life, and even if you were not born in Detroit, you will feel ethos because this book reaches out to Everyperson everywhere who has worked at least one honest job.

Seven Floors Up by Cati Porter

Look over Cati Porter’s website: http://catiporter.com

North of Oxford

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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…

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The Philosopher Savant

North of Oxford

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Review by Stephen Page

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In the first poem of the book the narrator, as a young boy, skips church and wanders the countryside, discovering new truths, learning he is able to think for himself, coming to his own conclusions about himself and the world, and finding out he is not bound by non-secular dogma. This is where the Philosopher Savant comes into being.

The book follows the remembrances, dreams, fears, evaluation, assessments, and vision of the Philosopher Savant. He is an average person, a father, a householder with a job—but he has a vagrant soul and the fugue vision of a shaman.

Larson writes in the veins of Whitman and Shakespeare. Some of his poems read as contemporized sonnets, and they have as much genius entwined as Shakespeare’s.  While reading the poems, I had a feeling of transcending my self, a oneness with the “all”. The thesis of…

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Rookery By Traci Brimhall (in honor of International Women’s Day)

Rookery by Traci Brimhall

rookery2Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry

Paperback: 96 pages

Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press (October 21, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0809329972

ISBN-13: 978-0809329977

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Review by: Stephen Page

 I was exiting Saint Stephen’s Basilica (a name I am particularly fond of) in Budapest, when, in middle of the church square overlooking the Danube River, I noticed a giant of a man, at least two meters high, dressed in Medieval Knight’s garb complete with a shiny armor breastplate engraved with a Tural.  His head was helmetless, and his hair was long and braided to the middle of his back.  His facial features were not unkind, but his expression was stoic and he looked like he had been in a few brawls in his lifetime. On his extended right arm, roosting on a leather sleeve, was an enormous eagle (which I know now to be a White-tailed Eagle, a species that can attain in maturity15 pounds in weight, 92 inches in length, and 92 inches in wingspan. This bird looked like it was all that and more).  The man turned to us and smiled, not quite an evil smile but more of a condescending smile, and seeming to single me out from the small group I was in (my wife, a couple who were our best friends, and the female tour guide) he began approaching me with determined strides.  Now, granted, this is a vacation I was on, and I was in a tourist-thriving city, and the man was wearing tourist-attraction clothing and had an eagle (by God) on his arm, but if I were in Detroit and were coming out of a restaurant at night and this same man, minus the eagle of course, was wearing a black leather jacket and a knit cap, I might have thought that this was going to be one of those situations where I would have to push my wife and friends behind me and tell one of them to call the police.  Seriously though, he just wanted to know if I would like to take pictures of myself with the eagle, for a small (ha, ha) fee of course.  My wife was trembling next to me and grasping my arm like she wanted to cut off its circulation.  I thought the idea was cool.  He slipped the leather sleeve over my forearm and set the eagle atop it, and my wife and friends began snapping photos of us with a backdrop of the Hungarian Parliament Building.   Pictures to send home to Mom.  I smiled and felt macho with this huge entity of nature on my appendage.  Yes, I was a man, a strong man, and I had this bird symbolic of strength on my arm.  I was one with the eagle.  Our souls were entwined.  It was an extension of me.  Then I looked at the eagle’s claws, which wrapped all the way around my forearm (which is pretty healthy in girth, if I do say so myself), and I thought about what eagles for do with those claws.  They kill things and rip them to shreds.  White-tailed Eagles eat mostly sea fish and cormorants, but depending on the season and how hungry they are, they will eat anything from rabbits to pigeons, snakes, and the hatchlings of other birds. They’ll even eat lambs if they are hungry enough.  From the strength with which the bird gripped my arm and the size and sharpness of its talons, I could imagine this raptor, this element of destruction and death, flying into a tree filled with pigeons, its talons slashing and ripping, zeroing in on the fattest of the rookery, gripping and crushing the life out of the bird, bones cracking, blood splattering, feathers flying, and in the same motion, beating its enormous wings, lifting itself up and out of the tree, its gory prize dangling below, headed off to a cliff kilometers away, to share the freshly-killed meal with its hatchlings, the scent of blood and innards driving the chicks into a feeding frenzy.
            In Rookery, Traci Brimhall’s first collection of verse, the narrator is, metaphorically speaking, a pigeon, and all of her lovers and male figures in her life are eagles.  Brimhall brings to the reading world piercing language and empathic characters.  Her poems rip and tear out your guts.  They feed your intellect.  They stimulate your senses.  To the poetry world, Ms. Brimhall is brought in on wings, as if by a Tural.

Traci BrimhallTraci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (forthcoming from W.W. Norton), winner of the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award.  Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere.  She was the 2008-09 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and currently teaches at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral associate and King/Chávez/Parks Fellow.

Find Rookery on Amazon.

Listen to an interview with Ms. Brimhall on Late Night Library.
Read an interview with Ms. Brimhall on How a Poem Happens.
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stephen-page-iiStephen Page is the Author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandellions. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. Stephen writes in a telephone pole-view room in Argentina, that is, when he is not teaching English for bus fare or constructing an elaborate Hot Wheels track around his writing desk. You can find him on the web at this link: htttp://stephenmpage.wordpress.com/author/smpages/

 

The Wine-Dark House by Rustin Larson

A Collection of Reflection

The Wine-Dark House by Rustin Larson

Blue Light Press. 101 Pages. $15.95

Reviewed by Stephen Page

 

Rustin Larson’s The Wine-Dark House is ampleWine-DarkHouseBig with poems. There is certainly sufficient poetry to fill an afternoon of reading. The speaker in the poems is on a quest, a search for something: tranquility in life, redemption for deeds done, or existential meaning—possibly that spiritual plane some people call nirvana.

When a person is pondering the past, memories do not usually appear in consciousness in a linear fashion, beginning from the first memory as a child, ensued by every subsequent memory up to the present. Rather, memories customarily come to mind non-sequentially. When an event or thought triggers a memory in a person, that person remembers something that happened last year, then something that happened as a teenager, followed by something that happened as a child, and then something that happened yesterday. Psychologically, this recollection process is known as associative memory. Similarly, Larson structures the book to follow the way the narrator is remembering events. The poems jump around in time. One poem is about an adult-relationship breakup, and the next poem is about a childhood incident. The entire collection is bound together by association.

Each poem in Larson’s book is packed with as much detail as a short story. The narrator often alludes to literary works, famous as well as infamous people, easily identifiable locations on the globe, and renowned historical events that either relate to the poems thematically, or place the memories in history for the reader. The poems do not adhere to any one form, but rather, they take form as their contents require. Larson’s writing style is multifarious.

The book is a good, long read. Every line in every poem makes a reader want to slow down and absorb every word. The experience is poly-sensuous, given Larson’s superb poetics. Larson is successful in that he writes outstanding poetry. Period.

Subscript: In The Wine-Dark House, Larson writes poems that demonstrate how memory works. The scenes are the narrator’s memories, but none-the-less, the situations are universal enough that a reader will access and empathize. The book is worth reading, if only for the rich language and the complete story each poem tells.

 

 

An Iris Anthropomorphized 

First published by Classic Book Club

Wild Iris by Louise Glück

Review supplied by Stephen Page

In The Wild Iris, Louise Glück allows flowers and other plants to speak. A gardener tending the plants also speaks, most often in prayer. Another voice, the deity prayed to by the gardener, speaks omnisciently. Glück’s garden, like life, brings unexpected joys and disappointments—the first sprouts, an early bloom, reoccurring weeds, a too-soon death. Although a reader may initially find it confusing who is speaking in the poems, I think Glück did this for a reason.

The first poem in the collection grants an iris voice:

“At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in the low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.”

The book’s major themes are set up in this first poem: death (as metaphoric winter), resurrection, and the role of nature. The iris has survived winter as a bulb or rhizome. It rises again in spring with a vague sense of a suffered life and a dream-like dormancy. The questions a reader may ask are: Does the flower actually speak, and, is anyone listening? A partial answer may be in the very next poem, the first in a series of ‘Matins’ (morning prayer).

“. . . Noah says
depressives hate the spring, imbalance
between the inner and outer world. I make
another case—being depressed, yes, but in a sense passionately
attached to the living tree, my body
actually curled in the split trunk, almost at peace,
in the evening rain
almost able to feel
sap frothing and rising: Noah says this is
an error of depressives, identifying
with a tree whereas the happy heart
wanders the garden like a falling leaf, a figure for
the part, not the whole.”

Here the gardener speaks to a deity while simultaneously revealing to the reader her mental state and personality—she is depressed and identifies with a plant. She projects herself into the plant. Since Noah has told her she should think of herself as an entity detached from the rest of the world, he is probably rebutting her theory that we all are a part of a whole.

The next ‘Matins’ refers to the Garden of Eden. Eve realizes her mortality and feels abandoned by God. The next three poems, ‘Trillium’, ‘Lamium’, and ‘Snowdrops,’ are plant poems that reemphasize themes of despair, death, resurrection, and instinctual (though vague) memories of past lives.

“When woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.

. . .

This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over rock,
under the great maple trees.

. . .

do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
damp in the earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again . . .”

With the next poem, ‘Clear Morning,’ a reader logically concludes that Morning is speaking, because of the title but also because the previous ‘flower poems’ use similar first person points-of-view while addressing the gardener as “you.” What the reader actually hears in the poem is the voice of God.

“I’ve watched you long enough,
I can speak to you any way I like—

I’ve submitted to your preferences, observing patiently
the things you love, speaking

through vehicles only, in
details of earth, as you prefer,

tendrils
of blue clematis, light

of early evening—
you would never accept

a voice like mine, indifferent
to the objects you busily name,

your mouths
small circles of awe—

And all this time
I indulged your limitations, thinking

you would cast it aside yourselves sooner or later,
thinking matter could not absorb your gaze forever—

obstacles of the clematis painting
blue flowers on the porch window—

I cannot go on
restricting myself to images

because you think it is your right
to dispute my meaning:

I am prepared now to force
clarity upon you.

God is condescending, angry, fed up. He is the jaded creator, scolding and didactic, detached yet fatherly. He is tired of listening to
meager human concerns and is tired of speaking through “vehicles,” yet He paradoxically disguises himself as Morning.”

Reading back over the previous flower poems, then reading further in the book, a reader will note that the flowers and other plants expound on topics that initiate within the mind of the gardener. They also speak in a patronizing tone (a personality trait of the God
portrayed); e.g., “hear me out,” “what are you saying?” and “Not I, you idiot.”

The rest of the collection continues similarly. God scolds the gardener, flowers and plants echo the gardener in a Godly timbre, and the gardener pleads to God using plant-life analogies. They all take turns speaking, as if allowing each other input in a conversation—yet, ironically, amongst all this verbal exchange, very little communication takes place. God hears the gardener but does not listen to her. The plants scream but the gardener appears deaf. God bellows, but nobody hears him. Obviously the book is written not so the characters will learn and change, but so the reader may decipher and conclude.

Glück crafts stunning poetry in this collection. Her imagery is vibrant, her language immediate, her personification convincing. The major debate throughout the collection, whether we actually resurrect or not, comes to no clear conclusion—in fact, contradictory answers are given. In one poem it is said that the soul is eternal. In another it says nothing lasts forever. The book could be read as stating that the Biblical order of things does not exist, that florae are not the lowest forms on earth, and that we as humans do not ascend to heaven.  A canonical gardener drives the collection, but Glück leaves open the option for a non-anthropomorphic God—one who has no conceivable form. Ambivalence in speaker voice may be a way to say that we are all
connected—human beings, nature, and God. Since plants attempt to answer the questions the narrator is asking, and since God speaks through the elements, it seems that Glück is saying that understanding nature is a way of comprehending the physical and
spiritual makings of the world—one only has to listen well and weigh the contradictions.