This slim chapbook contains eleven poems that tell the story of a mother and her alcoholic son--how she suspects and then discovers his addiction, how she vacillates between fear and denial, despair and hope. The place in between these extremes of emotion is the Hurricane Zone, and these poems--written by "Anonymous" to protect the son's identity--are hard-edged, starkly moving, and ultimately redeeming.

In "Birthday," the narrator looks back thirty-eight years to her son's arrival, "his mashed, chinless face / dented forehead /breaking its way out of me." The next several poems ("Foreshadowing," "Denial," "Shikker," "Postcard") address denial, how a parent can suspect their child is slipping into the abyss of alcohol or drugs and still wish to create a different story from the available details.

Finding help in Alanon, the narrator begins to work her program. In "Late Lilies" and "Detachment," she finds where a mother and son's boundaries begin and end: "he isn't me, / he isn't mine." In "Give Us This Day" (referring to the group's recitation of The Lord's Prayer at meeting's end) the mother, "lone Jew, lone atheist," learns detachment, that "cloud shadows of startling darkness / moving over the water are not the water."

"Ferryboat" and "Hope" reveal the narrator's painful longing to protect her son as well as her own obsession: a series of affairs early in her marriage when this son was a teenager. That memory, one both cherished and regretted, offers a thin moment of hope: "Anyone who wants to can change." But even when the son is good--able to work on a second novel--there is uncertainty and near-miss communication.

In "Hurricane Zone," the final poem, there is no easy resolution. The victory comes in addressing the topic of alcoholism straight on and making these poems available for others who may be struggling along the same journey.


In these poems, the son is also a sailor; the metaphor of his boat--its "depths of rot, splintered wood, ruin he worked on. . . until he planed it smooth"--functions wonderfully as evidence of his alcoholism, as his mother's desire to deny it, and finally as her ability to confront and detach from it with love, recognizing that "the boat he lives on. . . bucks all night in the wind."

Although this collection is barely more than a pamphlet, it offers a powerfully unique view of a family affected by alcoholism. In addition, the poems stand on their own as good literature: well crafted, stark, revealing, and unafraid. In her introduction, "Anonymous" writes, "I have been startled to find how usual it is to have family members in trouble. Yet, we rarely talk about them." This collection will open the conversation.


This chapbook is available for $3.00 plus $.55 postage from Premier Poets Chapbook Series, 94 Sandy Point Farm Road, Portsmouth, RI 02871

Primary Source

Premier Poets Chapbook Series: 16


Premier Poets Chapbook Series

Place Published

Portsmouth, R.I.



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