A pleasant, versatile first book of poems by Lee.
Louisiana’s crape myrtles, creeping vetch, and pine straw populate these poems as much as people do. The two summer Sunday poems that open the book show the impertinence of weeds and the comfort of pine and oak thickets remembered from childhood. The myrtles dance like ballerinas, “waving their limbs full of billowing / pink chiffon” above their admirer. A corn snake hunting in birds’ nests occasions thoughts on fate; a dead log’s rich ecosystem makes the speaker question her own worth: “furrows occupied, some empty, well-laid ant factories for tour...When I compare / my debt to yours, felled tree, I wonder / at my worth, my credit worthiness—the number / I consume—and I likewise consumed— / to keep the life cycle going.” This economical thinking on a grand scale has compassion for creaturely lives and an understanding of the seasons’ gifts. Such awareness leads to musing on the self’s ephemerality. Aging grows visible “On paling yellow leaves, / on these my hands.” The vicissitudes of love also make their way into the volume. Several poems take on the aftermath of romantic separation, some in a distanced way, some quite intimately. A poem titled “Clarity” parses the matter succinctly: “Nothing comes easy. / Nothing comes quickly. / I have given up on you. / I am giving you up.” A handful of verses look at death’s requirements from the living. “Bequeath,” a powerful, direct poem, wonders how the division of possessions can make sense of loss, how we can be worthy of such leavings: “Who should receive when things of the dead are divided?” Giving itself entirely over to metaphor, a late poem beautifully describes a grieving heart: “There are days when I walk it to the window / to look for the promises of spring.”
Not afraid to enter casual mode for the big things, one’s own mortality included. An apt choice for the earthliness of our lives.