Short Verses Whispered in a Tree House by Rebecca Cook (The Nervous Breakdown)

I read Rebecca Cook’s  “Short Verses Whispered in a Tree House” and got chills of familiarity. The literal invocation of the shorelike and very jagged line between the ocean and the sand, as it were, of the sacred and profane, is so evident here. You can feel the whispered quality of ecstasy used in both its etheric and corporeal forms. I love how the stanzas spread wider as the poem continues with the narrator herself expanding in the treehouse space

I was particularly drawn to this work because of a lifelong interest in liturgy and Christianity but then also my own appropriation of these ideas into the more blurred spaces of art and belief.  The poem’s narrator echoes my own childhood sense of superstition and intuition as interpreted through ecclesiastical motif:

God is love, easy to memorize.
But how to understand
its trueness, God’s finger and flame,
lightning staining my window, hell’s
dark mouth under my bed.

The above lines are almost Gerard Manley Hopkins-like in their devotion. But as the poem continues, there is a more carnal space, an input point of imaginative questioning that nearly resonates like one of Lorca’s sensual, symbolist gypsy-inspired ‘deep songs:’

The other one is Jesus wept. I wept
while my mother’s love died on the breast,
her last kiss on my four-year-old cheek.
Did he know such thirst
when the vinegar passed his lips?

What precisely is happening in this work is not the point almost. The work feels like an evocation, a reckoning point for the narrator, where her philosophical tenets meet her physical existence. The events feel almost obvious, but not quite. I hearken back to my own broken, religiously steeped childhood, my mother’s death, the summer camps of prayer and communion, the awakening into awareness of being alone and not quite alone.

The penultimate and final lines address the narrator’s reliability:

Of course it’s true, this most persistent lover, covering my
mouth with his hand. Shhhhh. There is no fear.

…and in this we find our own spaces of imagination and faith and sensuality and the overlapping notion of what we think, what we believe, and what we know ourselves to be. -RK

[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]