from Practicing Vigilance by Bianca Stone (Tin House)

There’s a mysterious kind of birdwatching that begins this excerpt of Bianca Stone’s from “Practicing Vigilance,” a birdwatching of memory which first begins as a migration

I say my father’s surname to a migration of crows

… and which ends in the poem’s fourth of four sections, as an inedible meal:

crumbs the largest birds cannot tear

I’m interested here in the word “tear,” as in “rip,” as the final word of this excerpt; but also in the word “tear,” as in cry, because the tone of the poem is so self-deprecating and yet so elegiac: it is a poem of the weight and function of the past, the heft of nostalgia in its sad, Civil-War sense.

As it introduces itself:

Each day try and write down one terrible thing.

And later:

My history comprises the inappropriate.

In between the narrator scrutinizes her face in a mirror, the quality of light and the need to shade oneself from it, nature and how it becomes her and transcends her. She looks to solutions in impractical places: magic eightballs, imagined apocalypses.

Behind it all are the shadow of her father and the beat of the wings of messenger crows, totems of the spirit world, and the need to somehow digest this varied experience, depicted as it is in fragments.

I know well this approach of writing a long poem in segments, of rendering memory in the same way as it is created: incrementally, episodically,  indelibly. This work resonates for me because it speaks and stands back, speaks and stands back. Yet still there is a physical form that roams the world, that “see[s] through the atmosphere’s silk chemise,” revealing an intellect and a spiritual presence that longs for integration.

In the third of four sections, I note the following line:

Today make nothing happen very slowly.

I love this line, growing up as I did in chaos, and making poetry out of chaos. I think this line serves as a prayer for what the wounded and reflective soul might hope to bear.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Rosemarie Koch earned her MFA in Poetry from Arcadia University in 2013 – the culmination of a lifelong dream. For her, poetry is an art form that crosses all forms, and is also a great source of joy – both reading it and writing it. She has recited Hopkins’ “Windhover” at many poetic and non-poetic gatherings, regards William Blake and Emily Dickinson as close personal friends, and finds poetry in everything she hears and sees. Her work with Minotaur’s Spotlight is an extension of her love of verse. [/author_info] [/author]