- Poems Read Us
64 Pages; Print, $14.00
In the introduction to Capture Theory, her recent poetry collection, Joy Gaines-Friedler explains the meaning of her title:
a political term used to explain the way in which regulatory agencies have been captured by the very industries they were established to regulate. It is also a now debunked theory of how the moon was captured by the earth's gravitational pull. The term is, of course, being used here metaphorically.
In her view, our life experiences are "captured" within us, and at propitious moments, they resurface. The idea is a variant of Proust's concept of involuntary memory, which is true memory because it appears of its own volition sparked by an association or sense perception. In the first poem, "Touch," capture theory is expressed by the image of a chickadee perched on the speaker's hand, encompassing opposites:
You don't hold it. It holds you.
It is a kiss, both hard & soft, both lips & bone.
Gaines-Friedler teaches creative writing in the Detroit area, and she has worked with the incarcerated, an experience which has affected her worldview. She has a natural sympathy with those who live at the margins of society, the disenfranchised or otherwise unheard, whose voices are ignored in our national conversation. Included are those who are no longer able to speak for themselves, like Gaines-Friedler's mother, institutionalized with late-stage dementia. Gaines-Friedler divines a kind of holiness in the images of her mother and the other women lined up in their wheelchairs:
Tonight I willcall my mother, ask if she's eatenor spoken with friends.I will wade through her silence while she tries to remember. Like the half-moonlit & unlit, present & concealed,we are known & unknowable."Days of Awe"
My mother's in a wheelchair by the window.Aides sweep crumbs from the tables around her.She's lost the map to wordsbut smiles when she sees me.
There are flowers on the slip-on shoes I've brought her.Two-dimensional violas. She stares down at them.I find myself seeking language for her."Lack of Memory Floor"
In "Over the Rainbow," she locates her mother in the past and herself in her mother's last days, the differences between them contrasted as light and darkness:
The difference between usis not what we see but how we see it.
It's the rainbow she tried to capture—all that yearning for somewhere else—
without noticing the darkit shows up against."Over the Rainbow"
Loss is an anthem bracketing the collection: The deaths years ago of two close friends, one to AIDS and one killed by her husband, continue to haunt Gaines-Friedler. "When the World Converted to Acronyms" poignantly recalls the feeling of living in the midst of the AIDS epidemic:
We began talking in code:HIV, AZT, AIDS.
The pipes shifted in the walls as the heat came on.The crows left to seek safer neighborhoods.
The screaming ambulances gave wayto holes of silence & families began to count their living."When the World Converted to Acronyms"
The speaker's continued grief for her murdered friend and her guilt for not having prevented her death is the subject of "Home Repair." The poem takes the speaker and her friend back to a time of innocence, before sexual relationships complicated their lives, and then dissolves this Edenic vision:
The still-remaining moonlight drains its gold-platingonto the front lawn—like that morning, & others,when you & I, without boyfriends, finally
made it home after watching the headlights dimthrough the window of our favorite all night diner.Moonlight is a façade.A front. A disguise. A veil."Home Repair"
By distilling a painful experience into an image, by expressing it in order to foster connection and understanding, poetry becomes a means of survival—perhaps the means of survival. "Grab Hold" evokes the speaker's long-ago miscarriage and her regret that she never became a mother:
As my knees hit the floorI threw my arms around you...