In 11 bare-bones, free verse poems, Rose (Heavy Bags of Soul, 2012) refines a yearslong grieving process into a heartbreakingly potent distillate of sorrow.
“I am at a loss,” declares Rose’s bereft narrator after her husband’s death. Ostensibly referring to her uncertainty about what to do with his belongings, the narrator is also confronting an existential fact; she has arrived at loss and seemingly has nowhere else to go. This technique—the evocation of loss on one level to imply an unspeakably more profound loss beneath—is one Rose frequently employs. She writes that “No one ever thinks of tragedy / the other way around / when nothing is left but shoes,” noticing that the “space between my fingers / is ever present. / At any moment, / small slivers,” and other fingers will never interlace with hers again. The sparseness of her verse—often a single beat or two per line—borders on gaunt and serves to codify the body’s and psyche’s inward collapses under the weight of grief, the instinctively protective drawing inward until “we are balled up in the fetal position.” She also structurally simulates the simultaneous, and paradoxical, scattering of self that accompanies a loss of this magnitude. Upon her husband’s death, she is at once “a wall” with “no door,” “the I’s that must witness” and the peripatetic who has “been bleeding out / all over the house. / I can walk / up and down the stairs / tens of times.” The difficulty of relationships—“So much compromise / when it comes to another”—urges her to acknowledge that “some part should feel like freedom / it should feel like freedom / it should,” yet what she finds is that his absence has become a violation of self: “Sorrow has left me naked / in a way I couldn’t have imagined, / leaving my life open to all. / Every nook and cranny.” The recovery of self, the poems reveal, is a long and always incomplete process. Though slightly marred by a handful of prosaic moments, the overall force of these poems is such that lines as simple as “I see a blue sky today. / It seems like a triumph” will, in context, shock readers with their cathartic power.
Startlingly touching poetry; be prepared to step inside the sorrow.