Death brushes the windows of our lives with wings of fear and anxiety, darkness and dreams, memories and old hurts. Deanna Young, in her third collection of poetry, House Dreams, makes us hear the percussive beat of each wing, see its feather, feel its power. In her opening poem, “Beautiful, Astounding, Wondrous,” she suspends us on a “short-haul domestic flight” that runs into a storm.
It could go either way. Life is always like this: a series of what-ifs. Young bookends this poem with one called “The Beauty,” where a childhood friend, who’s battling cancer, says to her, “I’m doing just what anyone else / would do to stay alive.” In between these two meditative, deceptively light poems, are five sections of poetry that delve further into all the ways we experience loss in the mundane and glorious moments of our lives.
Young throws us headlong into tragedy with “On the Way to the Lake,” where she ratchets the tension in the poem near to breaking point by not saying the obvious:
not in his car seat. Inside you say when I ask, turning your face
toward a corner store with faded posters taped to the window,
bare wooden steps. I trust you because I have to but wake
before seeing him again. To a brimming sorrow, black
The house is a place of refuge and belonging, but it is also where despair lies down in bed with us, where our awful past trips us up in the hallway, where “Evening surrounds the house / like wolves,” as Young writes in “Vieil Ami,” and inside: dreams, visions, night-terrors. A “cat with glass in its mouth” (“Rêve Peuplé D’Animaux”); “Thoughts jumping / like rain on water” (“Il Nous Reste Encore Du Temps”); “Caught by the gills, in a net / between worlds, I struggle” (“Survivante”); and from the same poem, “No phone rang I say out loud. No child / needs me right now,” as a spine-tingling echo to “On the Way to the Lake.”
Young doesn’t always focus on the darkness; there are also poems of hope, of moving on, of finding richness in the wonders of this world.
It’s hard for me not
to take life personally (I must bear
in mind the divine gift
Of the five sections, I found “Barachois” and “The Valley” to be the most compelling, but there are strong poems throughout. The only thing I found wanting was a sharper knife, a more vigorous cutting away. Some poems, such as “The First Wife,” “Inventory: Long-Term Storage,” and “Shot at the Heart of the Central Market, Port of Spain” seem too insubstantial and too far from the heart of the book to include.
Quibbles aside, Young writes with depth, poise, and experience. Here’s just one example. In “Eagle Drive,” a poem that unearths the memory of an alcoholic father and a strong, surviving mother, the narrator takes a stroll with her, years later:
we pass a house on fire
with a certain type of scream, a woman’s voice flaming
at the windows. And time
falls on its knees on the sidewalk before us,
Al Rempel’s books of poetry are This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For and Understories. His poems have appeared in subTerrain, CV2, and Event. He can be found at http://alrempel.com.
ARC IS ALWAYS LIKE THIS!