Some Things Stay in Your Hands: Review of Between Here and Monkey Mountain by Laren McClung

“The Way It Is”


All morning from your window

thrashers and blackbirds

flying back north, Sam Cooke

on the stereo. You pull me into full step

or when the music dies down

into a sway. You say in the 50s

in Tuscaloosa, white boys hung out

on doorsteps of churches

to hear a little gospel, thrumming

their voices into rock-n-roll.

In my world hair musicians howl

Meatloaf or Guns-n-Roses –

my stomach turns when you say it

that way. And all I can think

in the late-morning light

is how I love the chiaroscuro

of our hands conjuring

boogie-woogie and I wonder,

who would dare run a rope

between us on the dance floor?


Laren McClung’s collection, Between Here and Monkey Mountain, excavates the troubles of war imbedded in a generation whose effects ripple into the generation of the next. It is the speaker who sheds light on the effects of this inheritance, the poet seeking clarity, connection, and reparation among the rubble. The collection is arranged into three sections– each presenting its own perspective, each coming together to show the love and pain that run concurrently through the human experience. This connection flows like a red ribbon universally through the thick of things. “The Way It Is,” is one of several poems which highlights those fleeting moments of tender connection between the generations, boldly asking, “Who would dare to run a rope/between us on the dance floor?” Later on, in part three, the poem “Monkey Mountain” reveals another kind of velvet rope — the “double-edged sword” of war, remarking that here, on the mountain, “There are codes/and color lines, some ropes you don’t cross/at home.” Afaa Michael Weaver writes, “In Between Here and Monkey Mountain McClung creates a space where love is rescued from tragedy, a space where the harmonies of a woman’s courage live.” The beauty and ache exuding from this work linger, leaving us after we are finished reading changed.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Elise Brand is a poet and teacher from Montgomery County, PA, earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University in 2014. Her work has appeared in Adanna Literary Journal, The Broadkill Review, The North Penn Reporter, and Mousetales Press. She views art and its making as gifts with which to be generous – the connection between artist and audience a sacred thing. She enjoys travel and cooking, bicycling and refurbishing old furniture. She lives in Lansdale with her husband, a history professor, who shares her of love of vintage records and the resurgence of vinyl. (Records, that is. Vinyl in other instances may be questionable.)[/author_info] [/author]