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  • Seeds of Possibility
  • Micah Ling (bio)
The Dark Cave Between My Ribs
Loren Kleinman
Winter Goose
122 Pages; Print, $13.99

People get attached. It seems like a natural cycle to long for something better, and then when it’s achieved, to fear its loss. We think: There’s this thing that I want—this love—and once I have it, what if I lose it? Kleinman’s collection starts this way:

If I had love, I would name it an infinite name.

But then, a thing, an act, an event, changes a person drastically. Life is so jarringly different from what we plan: what we imagine. Things can so easily get knocked off course. And yet we learn, and survive. The titles to these poems are telling: merely reading the table of contents makes this whole thing seem familiar.

Kleinman reminds us that there are so many different forms of nourishment. Food and water, sure. The basics. But also anger, and necessarily breaking things. That’s survival, too. Like Sharon Olds, Kleinman has no fear of putting harsh realities into poems. Crimes and atrocities, depression and sparks of light. It’s all there. Honest and dark and splintering. On repeat.

Somewhere it’s night. It’s noon. It’s night again.

Life can pass that easily. The pain is bigger than just the speaker’s, though. It is reflected in numerous tragedies. Ongoing horror. Past and future pain. A reminder that people are so fragile, and can endure so much.

Fossilized love, I’m a human water board. A waterfall forces me to the bottom of a sandy ravine, fish nibbling my toes, the water, shining like grief.

And the process is here, too: the wrestling of the poem within the poem when nothing else is left. In the notes to this collection, we find out that all kinds of influences and poets fueled the writing. And, while not necessary to make these poems move, it’s always inspiring to pick the poet’s brain, in a way: to see the works cited. Things are very much connected.

At one point, it’s almost humorous when the poet asks:

Was there time to write the plot?

Such a reminder that we trudge through a decent amount of life—even of a single day—not considering other people the way that we probably should. Everyone is their own most important person. What’s really going on in anyone else’s world can’t possibly be so important. And in this collection, we can make a lot of good guesses, but we can never be sure of the events—the true plot. How in the world do we all survive together? Doing things out of greed, mostly, and then out of spite. Doing things based on guesses and reaction: it’s dangerous to be alive.

What’s more remarkable is the realization of this selfishness.

Let my heart be free. I don’t want you anymore. You’re not The whole world.

Perhaps the “you’re” here is another person, but it seems like a realization that the “I” is also “not the whole world.” Isn’t that the ultimate goal? To finally realize that the self is not all there is to living? What do we really have if we only have the self? Not much, it seems.

The collection is broken into four sections and seems to follow the stages of grief. Or seasons of change. Kleinman takes us through the brutal and the dirty in order to plant some seeds of possibility. By the end, we get hope. By the end, we get something more than first person. The realization of not wanting to die, while fundamental and seemingly survival instinct, can be most exciting. One of the most delicate poems, “I Don’t Want to Die,” describes the kind of simple moment that almost gets passed up, and then ends up etched in memory as a marker. An event. Again we see the connectivity of life.

In the final poem, “We Still Have Time,” Kleinman gives a vision of forward movement: of spewing the poison and coming to, healthy. Or at least, on the...


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