This collection traces the writer/speaker's journey through her husband's diagnosis to his death of cancer and through the first year after loss, ending with an eight-part poem entitled "The First Yahrzeit," (69) that commemorates the one-year anniversary of her husband's death. The poems vary richly in tone, structure, and focus, some vividly descriptive of the experience, some obliquely figurative, some simple pauses over a moment or an object that has become evocative or sacralized in the course of mourning. Every one offers a surprise line or image that is worth returning to. The whole chronicles a journey of a kind many have had to take, and offers a testimony of hard-won, ambiguous healing.


These are compelling poems. The chronological ordering of them, traveling the trajectory from diagnosis through death, makes them a kind of pathography. The variety of felt responses to a beloved husband's pain and to the speaker's own loss testifies convincingly to the emotional complexity and unpredictability of shock, loss, and survival, and to the possibility of choosing life in new terms even while fully recognizing the finality of loss.

Occasionally the poet comments on her own project in the midst of a poem: "But would I be able to skirt the divinity and order and moral protest of poetry? / And how else to obliterate the glibness of death by cancer?" ("Prayer," 32) And later: "Reconfigured, you are become the shape I apparently loved" ("I Lose You and Find You," 42) She also reflects on the resocializing involved in grieving: "Death / makes my best friends / mute but I am learning tricks / to forgive them, gratitude for what they mean / to say . . ." ("Counting Weeks," 39). The emotional honesty of these poems as well as the skill with which they render material difficult to protect from the erosions of cliché recommend the book highly to anyone reflecting on personal loss as well as those involved with the recently bereaved.


Red Hen Press

Place Published

Los Angeles



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