Ratto Parks’ (Song of Days, Torn and Mended, 2015, etc.) mosaic novel pieces together the inner life of a woman through a succession of prose poems.
After alliteratively establishing her “normalcy” in the prologue—“Before you know the rest, you should know this: I live in a pleasant house on a quiet street in a modern-day Mayberry with mountains”—Ratto Parks’ protagonist proceeds to tell of her most irregular inner being in a series of poetic vignettes. The pieces focus on a man, perhaps a muse, perhaps a ghost, or maybe an adult version of an imaginary friend, a conjured personification of cravings, desires, and thwarted fulfillment; he is sometimes a lover, sometimes cruel, and sometimes just a friend playing catch with a baseball. Ratto Parks’ work is contemplative and original: “I sat at the end of the long hall of myself watching my life while I witnessed all of those sacred places invaded” or “the silent ghost of old traffic made every sound bright.” She augments her own polished verse with references, allusions, and outright quotes from a wide variety of people and sources: Dante, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, R.M. Rilke, and even John Wayne. Hallucinatory and dreamlike, the author repeatedly considers themes of loss either in water (“Then we finally gave in to the stones in our pockets and we sank through the salt brine”) or simply into thin air (“off like kites blowing endless through the ether”). Throughout, her dream man and dream land prove as fickle as reality. He often comes and goes at whim; appearing and disappearing without warning: “He was there after the rain, in the night lawns, thick and arcing, and I could feel him leaving me, falling away from the fabric of human air.”
Brilliant, at once dense and ethereal; rewards multiple readings.