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Summer 2016 - Book Review by Roman Gladstone

by Rose Hunter
dancing girl press, 2015
$7.00, 40 pages

The title of Rose Hunter's chapbook refers to the roadside crosses that mark the places where somebody has died in a car accident. The word means "resting places" in Spanish. The thirteen longish poems in descansos make up an interwoven meditation on the meaning and implications of such a death, its tragedy, of course, but the unresolved, intimate issues that surround such an event as well. Thus, descansos is itself a memorial, no less than the crosses to which it refers.

Fittingly, the very first word of "tongue," the first poem in the sequence, is "remember":

     remember in any case what do we mean
     ever, still: some people said

     must have been your time, they said
     everything happens for a reason

     they used expressions like passing away
     some mentioned deceased pets

     but where did all the blood come from
     the blood and the dust

     casi instantuneamente what that means
     also you were forty-seven

Dust comes back, like a memory, nine poems later in a poem with that title:

     ...dust to dust we say and mean a thing
     but buddha says what do we even know

     about a shard of dust, what a mystery, what
     happened before the crash? If you'd worn sneakers

     instead of flip flops....

And this reference to flip flops sends us back three poems to a poem with that title:

     yet when these people don't have the details
     straight on you, how difficult it is

     to remember your name or pause
     before switching to your boss you can't stand

And we're back again to memory, to remembering.

Except for the poems, "window washer" and "flip flops," both minimalist themselves, all have single–word titles, and all employ these minimalist two–line verses whose stark language is so allusive, suggestive.

The poem "window washer" concludes with these verses:

     but selective memories I hang onto

     even more since the burden of what
     you held onto the strain on your face

     your bones, do you know sometimes
     i simply let go. the latest obsession

     drama bit of fun or sorrow, one time
     we kissed and when we looked up

     the light had turned green and the other
     cars gone. i remember it but not

     how it was; the window washer saw

The window washer, who might grandiosely be thought of metaphorically as "the objective, all-seeing-eye" shows up again in the penultimate poem, carpenteria:

     if i'd known then, right? if then, what?
     now i see what the window washer saw.

And then the collection ends on the lines from the Buddha's Heart Sutra, which is all about the central Buddhist message of letting go:

     gone gone gone. all the way to the other shore.

Memory can never let go, but memory leads, paradoxically, to release. Memories, then, are themselves descansos. Hunter's chapbook is an unflinching examination of grief, but grief without the self-pity; as she writes in the poem, "feline":

     and you know how i pride myself, i say
     i have no respect for those with weak stomachs

     who shield their eyes or spare them what
     can we do with spared eyes anyway

     keep them in a box or a jar or little plastic
     bag. desechables. In stead let's line up

     and see with the eyes we have unspared.


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