Lori A. May’s collection of poems takes a keen look at marriage – the “square feet” of it – and its varying nuances over time. It looks within the living space of the couple, the apartment that includes their cats, the houseplants, their “stuff.” What happens when the in-laws visit. It looks within the marriage itself as it unravels into routine and real life. May’s poems slam us with frankness, guide us with humor and with heart.
The collection opens with “PLACE SETTINGS” which shows a speaker imagining when she will meet “the right quintet of people who will appreciate refined qualities in quantity.” Caught up in the dream of playing house and keeping up. Then the tone of the collection changes, and the realities of marriage emerge. Poems such as, “SIDE BY SIDE,” “SEPARATING THE WHITES,” and “YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO LOOK,” all serve to develop what happens beyond the honeymoon. Superimposed details that are “his,” “hers,” and “theirs,” reinforce those real moments, often less than ideal, that come with co-habitation and commitment to a significant other.
And just as we readers, like the couple, begin to settle in with these snapshots of reality, this marriage is jarred by tragedy: devastation from the loss of a child. Unbearable heaviness that ensues. “THE WEIGHT OF BEING” embodies this loss and what emerges to be the couple’s growing distance. “The void between us widens;/beneath the volcano mouth/a feverish spit accumulates/in an embryonic space once warm,/now tepid. Now cool?/ We speak of kindle,/matches, seeds. Fire/we can set to stuff the belly/of what aches.”
What is undefinable is felt. It is heavy, dark.
Yet there is hope for them, and a reminder for us. The poem, “FORGIVENESS” reveals confessed thoughts, “guilt, /my remorse/as you lie/with closed eyes/and a relaxed mouth/a warm body/as I work through the night.” The weight begins to lessen. Later, in “A FRESH COAT” the couple begins a new start; he revives the first-date joke and they open the windows, “and vent ourselves/intoxicated with new paint smell. /It takes time to clear the air.”
An uplifting renewal.
Throughout the collection the speaker’s description of “others” in the space is also significant, echoing once again what occurs within the square feet of these lives, as others do in ours. In the poem “THEY SHALL LEARN FROM US,” for instance, the cats of this space are physically together, both already part of the “family”, but still learning to live within the territory and with personality of the other. The plants, too, are growing, and are at times in need of more –water or light, warmth, pruning –these variables changing by season. A windowsill of plants is included in silhouette on the front cover. May’s collection in sum is a journey through phases of marriage: getting comfortable, drifting apart, regenerating – and what endures.
A hopeful reminder that our movement through life is a cycle, connections returning to us once again.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://minotaursspotlight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Elise-Photo.jpg[/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 love of vintage records and the resurgence of vinyl. (Records, that is. Vinyl in other instances may be questionable.) [/author_info] [/author]