"Drawing on images that rise dream-like from a personal landscape, these poems attempt to communicate what I find hardest to say, the movement of my mind within itself. So much of the way we perceive the world is dependent not on what has happened to us, the storylines of our lives, but on how we piece those fragments of experience together. The poem 'And Then' enacts the difficult processing of my mother's death. But it enacts, too, my experience writing a poem: it begins in a meditation—the mind turned inward, images rising fractured and unbidden. When focused on, these images solidify, in this case into bits of memory, which in turn are hinged to other memories, moving tangentially as the mind moves. The ways in which these memories are hinged defines the realizations.
"The other three poems, 'Atrium,' 'Invocation: A Fragment' and 'Sanctuary: A Premonition,' attempt to articulate a central human experience that is primarily nonlinguistic. For this, I found it necessary to turn to a more surreal language, one that is highly imagistic, a language that resonates against a self, beyond the conscious mind. All four of these poems are drawn from my new manuscript, A Toast to Grief."
the difficult listening, the mind tuned to draw the thread of blood stitchedto squire the find, a quail squalling in a field of corn— a barren, harvested sky,the smell of lit fire. Ash, and, on the wing, a sparrow, the lit, then unlit rise and falling of its gait—ashto ash, my father says, we should pour them on his father's headstone, in an old French cemetery where graveteeth break through moldering earth. My daughter and I turn the soilof our garden, loosening worms she collects in a jar, the stem crust and slap, break of root-hairsto press something new into the yard's moist mouth. Let's visit the garden we planted Grandma in, she says, and we do,the hill my father, with his fluid-filled heart, tried to climb, my own pulse poundingmy forehead, as, in grief and guilt, I kept seeing the scene gone awry: in processionto my mother's grave, my father, his stumbling gait, his one heartcongested to failure, the fall and crumple by the grave I chose high on the hillso she could see far, the geese schooling the pond, the bobbins they make of water rings, [End Page 166] the greening humps and, vaster, the bowl of blue sky, crazedin bleats and calls. We beckoned a gardener, who jostled my father up the cemetery slopein something like a golf cart. Thank God for the mercy of absurdity, my father and Ilooking at our shoes by my mother's grave. I teach my daughter to plant, to turn the mineral-richsoil, but as we kneel in the backyard, her skirt skimming her smudged ankles, I see the glintof an old colander, and upturning it uncorks the earth before us, dry soil sifting down like sandthrough a sieve, and a hole, a shaft, large enough she could fall through, opensat our feet—my mind recalibrating the day, the dangers of our sunlit yard, all the gearsof disbelief and terror drilling down through my chest as I feel along the line between horror and sense,what to make of this—an old well, perhaps! and snatch her away. Love's a hole we all fall throughto grief, a tenderness ringed in terror. My girl, her beauty blazing, waves the garden hose,its spray a shifting umbrella of rain, perforating joy, each framebroken and spliced to the next for those of us who stay lit, the deep brass note reverberating even now [End Page 167] below our keening birds, distant motors gunning, the dappling light playing us in minor key, before the trebledsilence of aspen leaves, the panning out, the curtain's fall. [End Page 168]
Nadine Sabra Meyer's first book of poems, The Anatomy Theater, won the National Poetry Series and was published by HarperCollins in 2006...