Themes of nature, travel, relationships, and current events run through Gardner’s (To Inhabit the Felt World, 2013, etc.) collected poems, some of which are also in Spanish.
Gardner, a writer and visual artist based in New Mexico, presents a sonically and linguistically rich set of verses mined from foreign travels, personal interactions, and experiences of the natural world. “Locked Gate” tells the story of a Guatemalan woman who disappeared in 1980. “No body. No grave. Not a strand of hair” remains, yet, “Remembered…she’s alive as you or me.” Other protest poems address the mistreatment of women (“we know the sorrow of / our younger sisters”) and the pervasiveness of violence (“Any time is the time / to go to war”). Elsewhere, verses resemble haiku in their concision and natural focus, especially the central quartet of sections named after the seasons. Fresh metaphors and vivid images linger: “Thunder rolls its baritone song nearby” and “white-whiskered crane alone / in morning stillness.” “Cezanne’s Apples” and “Garden Bench” are two of the strongest poems. The former includes an array of color (“viridian, carmine, cochineal”), while the latter’s sibilance (“Sumptuous excess silences slow wind”) is a good example of alliteration. “Yellow,” a frequent adjective, lends a nostalgic glow to “Montserrat Revisited,” one of several standout travel poems: “last tenacious yellow cleaves to sycamore.” The gentle eroticism of “Desiderata” finds muted resonance in “Bedtime Story,” in which two people dream of building a bed of aspens. The bed is a symbol for their marriage, and there is a deliberate echo of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” as they wonder, “Would the center hold?” Physics and Internet security, respectively, provide the unusual vocabulary for two later poems. Care has clearly been taken over the varied stanza lengths and indentation, while Gardner’s brush-stroke images are germane illustrations. Twenty-five poems are accompanied by Spanish versions—an additional gift for bilingual readers.
Precise language and imagery reinforce the conclusion that noticing leads to enlightenment: “a few things / unremarked / awaken us to this life.”