Friday, March 06, 2009
Falling Forward by Rebecca Schumejda
PO Box 911
Buffalo, NY 14207
Rebecca Schumejda’s titular poem is also the last one in the collection, set off by its own section heading and center justified. It’s a special poem that acts as a sort of afterword and comments, in a fairly direct manner, on the collection as a whole. The image one gets is of a prayer, but not just any prayer—a prayer of supplication in the face of adversity.
Indeed, the collection as a whole works on that level. The section titles are all lines or images from the title poem, “The Truth Is Too Heavy,” “Folded Like Two Hands in Prayer,” “Overgrown with Weeds and Regrets,” and “Falling Forward.”
The first poem begins “This afternoon / I buried your cat / while you were at work.” It is economical language broken into clauses, but the enjambed first line lends a sense of tension, which is borne out through the rest of the poem. The narrator dreads the idea of relating this event when her significant other returns home from a day at work.
Other poems follow a similar theme—two characters with distance between them, avoiding topics that need to be addressed and fumbling through crumbling or crumbled relationships, all in an attempt to maintain grip on the ungrippable.
This tension between the things that ought to be said and things that are not said creates a space of broken relationships and cross-purpose discussions. It’s similar to a Pinter play in that the space between spoken thoughts is as much a character as the actual characters within the poems.
Ultimately, the reader is left with the last poem as an answer to all the problems within. “Falling Forward” is an apt description of the lives of Schumejda’s characters. They don’t so much move through time as stumble, trying to keep their feet in an uneven world. But “[w]hen the truth is too heavy…[t]here’s no way to avoid failure,” says the narrator. This is the very essence, the underlying motif of each poem, that the only thing you can do is “just lean forward / let your knees cushion your fall.”
Very much recommended.
Review by Cameron Mount