Paula Cary, author of Agapornis Swinderniana (2012) from Dancing Girl Press, and curator of the Poet Hound website (http://poethound.blogspot.com), has released a new chapbook from Blood Pudding Press, entitled Sister, Blood, and Bone.
Though there seems to be an aversion to photos in the opening poem--when the speaker tells her sister to not bring photographs to college--these short pieces are indeed poem pictures-snapshots of a family during times of joy as well as upheaval.
The poems are a tribute to a sister, a trip backward in time to a childhood of pinky swears, playgrounds, and childhood games. The sisters partake in a lifelong dialog with nature, examining turtle bones, eggshells and pig meat, or watching as “the minnow’s dance cupped/its body silver shimmering/In the dusk of summer evening.”
Not surprisingly, there are many similarities to Lora Bloom’s new chapbook from Blood Pudding Press, Poking Through the Fabric of Light That Formed Us: Songs and Stories to Read in the Mirror as well as works by the press’s editor, Juliet Cook. Cary’s imagery is less grotesque, but she deals with the natural world in a similar way. She is not afraid of the decay in nature, of its darkness: brittle animal bones, El Dia De Los Muertos skeletons, jaggedness, hot lava.
These straight-forward, affectionate pieces seem like letters to the speaker’s sister and mother, but unlike a lot of literature about the past, the poems pose questions instead of offering answers or concrete memories. The speaker asks her sister, “But will you ever//Follow the same lava flows/as I?” Then, the speaker asks her mother, “Did you ever repeat/such nonsense as I did?/Did you ever jump rope chanting like I did?” These questions point to the fact that the mother figure is a kind of stranger.
Similar questions continue throughout the book. In the poem “After the Dive in Troy Springs” the speaker describes the way her sister looked after a diving accident; her lips had turned blue. The writer asks, “Should I bring a blanket/To warm you/And risk losing those colors?” This is a pivotal moment of understanding in the text. Here, and in Cary’s other poems, we are reminded of when art trumps tragedy, when the tragedy of a situation is as beautiful as the living that triggered it. We see what happens when tragedy reveals fragments and colors of ourselves that are usually unseen. They creep to the surface, scare us, and entice us.