The individual sections in Maleea Acker’s second book of poetry, Air-Proof Green, act like an optometrist’s refractor, the lenses slotting into place, one after another, the calm voice, the birds outside. Can you see better now? How about now? Acker’s poetry is all about perception, about seeing better, about being still enough to see. In her poem, “Work,” the poet declares “Your task / is to notice everything, relaxation is the best method. / Forget, look down, there’s the raven.” Her dog is
dreaming beside me.
In her mind green stretches for miles,
the lily pad corridor opens into light
“Just a minute,” a voice repeats in “Walking to L’Estany,” calling us back to attention. A salamander turns its head, “the little mechanism of his thought-calm unpacks itself / as he leaps.” Acker’s poetry is alive, vibrant, lush, and clean. Our vision isn’t muddied with fuzzy images or washed-out phrases. Instead, we glimpse at the discoveries the poet has made, wild patches of language that don’t appear to be premeditated, but that have sprung up while writing:
We are a trifle
lit in front of the sky,
think just of this leaning.
I am green, stiff-kneed.
Acker is involved in environmental protection movements, including the preservation of the Garry Oak ecosystem on BC’s South Coast, but she doesn’t fall into the trap of being preachy. Instead, she inhabits her values, and invites us to see with her. Even when she declares herself, Acker does so with humility and honesty. In “Cuckoo,” the narrator confesses, “It’s attention I’m failing at,” and a few lines further down, “There is no such thing as a thing unworthy.” Even if that thing is a small slip of green, carefully pressed into the angled cut of a graft in the stem of a wild rose, and dabbed with wax: “we could remake the world like this, / these tiny insertions of air-proof green.”
Each section of Acker’s book transports us to a different locale, from Spain to the Adirondacks, from the Rockies to Oregon. If there is any false move in the selection of poems, it might be the first poem of the third section, which seems to signal a shift in mode to a historical/familial voice that doesn’t play out. The poem itself is fine, and many great ones follow. In “Marina Marigo Wind,” the air “lives / to make a boiling ribbon of the mast,” and in “Cinquefoil, The Blue, Blue Day,”
[a] mare gives one glance, then returns
to the shade of the planted pines, her foal lying in sun studying
his own hooves in the mud. Sometimes a rift in life
cannot be turned into poetry; it sits in the sun
and takes and takes and takes the light until birds burst from it.
Acker’s vision doesn’t come across as naïve or simplistic: “sometimes, to know the world, / we must build something, / must be in the way.” I hope to read more of Acker’s work. She offers our confused and hurried society another chance to stop, to see, and to rebuild.
Al Rempel’s books are This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For and Understories. His poems have been in The Malahat Review, CV2, Event, and The Best Canadian Poetry, 2011. He’s at http://alrempel.com.
BEGIN THE NEW BEGIN, AVEC ARC!