Saturday, February 11, 2012
Wild as in Familiar
By Ellaraine Lockie
Finishing Line Press
Reviewed by Dennis Daly
Wild as in Familiar treats nature’s assaults on man and man’s interventions into nature’s processes with a critical eye and an aggressive imagination. To fully appreciate these poems go immediately to page twenty-two and read Ellaraine Lockie’s tone -setting poem, Rebellion. The debilitating rupture of a disc causes the poet’s doctor to order,
Stay away from amusement park rides
Country roads and horses …
The cowgirl-poet spurns this sensible advice and mounts up, riding a middle-aged horse, which had been headed to a dog food factory. She identifies closely with this horse because of their mutual age and vulnerability. She offers that “we were related long before I adopted her.” She describes them in tandem moving
Toward the flames of sunset in front of us
Like sisters following the same trail
Our manes flying free in the prairie breeze.
In Earthworms in My Hand, the poet’s persona again intervenes in nature, rescuing earthworms from a Katrina-like deluge. She
Rescues in the scoop of one hand
The hollow of the other
Back aching and deadline waiting
These missions claim the entire morning.
She, however, is motivated to accomplish her good deeds by sad memories and intense longings:
They don’t see my father’s faraway gaze into grief
Or my want of a man like these elfin lovers
Who slither on their natural lubricants
Over palms and between fingers.
Another earthworm poem entitled, Walk with Earthworms, makes the case that nature is quite unsympathetic to suffering. In fact it is often malicious,
I’m as fragile this morning
As their flushed-vein colored flesh
Rain bruised without buffer
Of umbrella or outerwear
My body italicized
Bending into stings of sorrow
Zeus is having none of it
And claps his thunderous hands…
SAD is actually a pretty funny poem or rather the idea of it is pretty funny. It details a counterattack against the now recognized disease of seasonal affective disorder. An orange robe, a rhinestone brooch, hundreds of burning candles, a snow- white wall, Christmas lights, a blazing fire, and lemons sucked through a peppermint stick all do their part in combatting the dark mask of melancholy. The poet uses martial imagery and strikes a defiant pose,
You attack after two torrential weeks
This time you won’t find me
Wallowing in any river of resignation
This time my skin is steel.
In the poem, Evolution, the poet confronts the coldness of nature and accepts the callous actions of God’s creatures,
The need of a hawk to systematically pull feathers
From a sparrow before eating it alive
Or a kea to attach itself to the back
Of a sheep and hammer beak to kidneys
A deviant rabbit that eats her own young
The pyromaniac and pedophile…
I surrender to dichotomy
To the world and the obscure wisdom of its creator…
Two poems, which seem to be at odds with one another, are Drawing Breath and Fallout. In Drawing Breath medical science intervenes against nature by providing a contraption to fight sleep apnea. The poet points out the unnaturalness of this by having her persona read a Stephan King novel and by contemplating the three day life cycle of a crane fly. Fallout deals with a much more serious topic: abortion and the multi-generational scars it leaves. The metaphor the poet uses is the bud on a rose bush that confronts her. Unquestionably, anger rises here,
..nor the bite of thorns
Can protect that bud
From prenatal picking..
A small sacrifice to the tiny worm
Still chewing on a leaf
And to a grandchild stolen
Not for everyone, but intense, honest, and well written.
Staying with this difficult theme, the poem Wings Clipped asks the question, when is it proper to play God? The poet’s persona discusses the fate of a damaged Monarch butterfly with her grandson (yes she does have a grandchild),
Do we hammer him between the newspapers
I mercy killed a mouse last month
Now it gets tricky
The last two poems in the book deal with death, salvation, and homespun religion. They are lovely and uplifting. A Wretch like Me takes you to
An open casket with thick rope handles, pine
The dust to dust kind
With no metal, plastic or satin lining
Displayed under a Madonna tree that has lived
Longer than the woman in the coffin..
The Amazing Grace hymn played by a bagpipe is the backdrop. Lilac balm becomes the aroma of saving grace.
Saying Good-bye, the last poem in the book, identifies a light, which emblazons a madrona tree as the light of salvation. The poet notes that this light is from the natural world, not the interior of a church,
Not in sixty years of Sundays
A searchlight for lost souls
For the downtrodden, the sick, the guilty, the sad…
It is this light, which gives the coldness of the natural world a warm context. Lockie’s poems do likewise. She takes the terrible beauty of nature and touches it up, line by hurtful line, with human love. Amen.