Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Questions About Home By Cynthia Brackett-Vincent
Questions About Home
By Cynthia Brackett-Vincent
Review by Dennis Daly
Going North in mid-life, chasing humming birds, loons, fireflies, and the clarity of heaven’s magical vault, exposes pioneer wonderment and a daring heart of faith in some folks. Others turn South to gated condos and difficult air.
Questions About Home, Cynthia Brackett-Vincent’s paean to her Maine homestead, family relations, and pet connections, refashions sometimes barbarous nature into a comforting sanctuary that reflects back her lovely poetic meditations in sympathetic splendor. Her provincial words melt time’s weather into a universal language applicable to the Maine woods or anywhere that humanity calls home. Brackett-Vincent’s first poem entitled This Is My Maine effectively introduces this collection. Here she imbues her home with generational memories on a Sunday morning,
My father on his wedding day
in a photo on the wall
looks out, too,
over the trees he would have carefully measured,
called by name. He’d like to be
climbing them, pruning them,
counting rings of the less fortunate,
splinters no matter
This one moment in time is my Maine,
this November 21 a.m.
Its very seconds will be ticked away;
its little flakes melt point by point,
but here it is now, solid as the oak
whose branch brushes my crystal-gleaming pane.
The poem Valentine’s Day Blizzard exhausts and teases as a neat little love poem. Brackett-Vincent extolls the benefits and downsides of winter to her marital relationship. Here’s the fun part,
The snow we’ve wished for all winter has come.
Has come in whipped-up wind stinging my face
as we dig out the mailbox & shovel
the roof. We make games of it—when the gusts
bring tears, I say he looks like his brother,
laughing as the sun glints off his glasses
when he realizes his truck plow is stuck.
We start at ends & meet in the middle…
A pioneer spirit and her need to question her place in the universe come through with eye-opening simplicity in the poet’s piece It’s just me & a fingernail moon. Returning mail delivered in error to her address back to its rightful mailbox, Brackett-Vincent, without the benefit of civilization’s noise and distractions, contemplates her physical relationship with her neighborhood’s geographical details. She explains,
…suddenly I realize it is just us
me, the moon, & the old stone wall
which leans in a little closer, it seems
each year to the roadside’s curve
a little bit like love, a little bit like need
while my hip screams louder
with each nuance of gravel
each boot-plod up the hill—
distance between neighbors
so close, so far. But we get there…
Brackett-Vincent gives a rousing defense of her concept of “home” in her title poem, Questions About Home. She details a contentment of sights and sounds that have drawn her in, as well as those beloved woods that help channel memories of her father in this family-centered meditation of belonging. The combination provokes empathy; her heart connects. The poem ends with a religious upturn,
Is where you’re from necessarily home?
Home is where you soul finally sees it.
Blackberries ripen. We watch, wait for deer.
Why Maine? What on earth made you move there?
Home is where your soul finally sees it.
I saw the woods like my father showed me.
Why Maine? What on earth made you move there?
The luminescent stars, calling us home.
Deep in her memory the poet stores and treasures childhood memories of quiet family moments that demonstrate her sense of strength and source. Brackett-Vincent’s poem How it Was That He Laughed Still brings one such moment to the surface. The poet’s father had polio and had once utilized an iron lung. In spite of his misfortune he brought joy to his family. Consider these lines,
His stories, his father’s stories—
how he loved each
more & more with each telling.
How polio offered my father the luxury
of rumination, as my sister & I sat—one
at his side—one at the foot
of his bed. How he laughed…
In a simple but elegant poem entitled Hymn of Praise Brackett-Vincent paints her own personal, yet strangely classic, Madonna and Child. I really like this piece. The poet’s daughter-in-law poses playful, adult-like questions to her infant son. The father looks on with not a little adoration. The poem ends this way,
…I catch a glint of morning light
shining in my son’s eyes as he watches,
these two—his two—how this woman he loves
sings her morning hymn, how the son he loves
holds the universe with one breath.
In a breathtaking pantheistic and poetic lament, Winter Lost, Brackett-Vincent becomes the image of her polio stricken father, admiring the attributes of nature through her home’s window. Her immobility, however, is temporary. She has been stricken with Lyme disease and has a fractured foot. Her bent is reverent and, as she peers into the winter landscape, she intones,
Each whirl of the universe calls my name.
Each soft fold along the rough-laid rocks calls my name.
The stars are suns burning my skin.
The scarves warm only the rocks.
My snowshoes hang, metal teeth ready.
I drag my foot cast around the house.
I want to be the universe.
I want to wrap myself in hot snow.
Flaming-cold suns. Be out there.
If you have any soul at all, dear reader, upon finishing this collection you will do as I have already done and head north to the woody cathedrals of Maine and the fellowship of hungry animals depicted by Brackett-Vincent in this delightful volume of hardy word artistry.