Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story

Every Love Story book coverEvery Love Story is an Apocalypse Story
by Donna Vorreyer
Sundress Publications, 2016

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor

I won’t tell you how the story ends, but you know from the title how it might. Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story, by Donna Vorreyer, announces the end of the world while suggesting, in words and in its compelling cover image, its continuing, perhaps a desolate continuing…. There stands a woman in a red dress, fabric looming in a hot wind, a smoky cloud roiling overhead. She stands resolute, gazing at the horizon.

Open the book, and soon you’ll find the four horsemen, in an epigraph by Zygmunt Bauman: “As far as love is concerned, possession, power, fusion and disenchantment are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Then, enter (the apocalypse) at your own risk. The poems are gorgeous, rich with story and image, lush with emotion, but laced with loss. They fall into three sections, not four, so are not aligned with the four parts of love according to Bauman, but, instead, with three parts of a story, as recounted by Vorreyer.  Reading, I became a detective, finding the phrases that title each section in poems from another section, somehow stitching them together, closing up the skin over deep wounds.

But can stitches mend the radical rift in “The Attraction of Opposites”? The couple is in love but essentially apart:

                                                        Even then,

     you wanted us to be exact, defined, but we
     would never be so. We are balls of mercury,
     the sudden flame on the head of a match.

Can anything heal this kind of hurt?: “Hurt is a live wire that passes between us, / powder burns on both our temples.” Well, maybe “the long con / of your Shawshank patience….” Oh, how I love that phrase! And this one: “Like Midas in reverse, / I tarnish everything I touch….” As a reader, I feel a bit guilty, relishing this lush language of pain. Listen to this, from “Two AM, Waning”: “My hands lose grip and slip / outlaw into the air. The moon has no / hands to catch me.” Oh, how I love “outlaw into the air”!

In these love poems, the “you” is sometimes the lover, sometimes the speaker addressing herself in the throes of separation, isolation, regret. The speaker is at times half-human, half-animal, feral in extremity. Yet always humanly aware that there is “no quick misery,” only a relentless one. Aware, as in “The Alphabet of Indecision,” that there are many words for the devastations of loss, none of them quite right. “I wade through piles of reference books, text circling my ankles like prison tattoos.” The absence of the beloved is torture, domestic objects left behind “[a] still life of lost intimacies.” But in this poem, “Lost Birds,” the speaker—in an Emily Dickinson-like move (“If I can… / help one fainting Robin / Unto his Nest again”)—gets “something like a second chance, something like mercy on the animal I am.”

Every love story is an apocalypse story, containing the end of the world as we knew it, and, perhaps, if we’re lucky, the start of a new one. “So our story is the best story,” says Vorreyer, in her poem “Continuing,” and, gripped by her story, I agree.

Donna Vorreyer at EIL

Donna Vorreyer in Looking for Love at EIL 

Donna Vorreyer at Sundress Publications 

Book cover art, On the Horizon, by Brooke Shaden

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