Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past, poems by Angie Macri
Finishing Line Press, 2014
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor
It’s October, a time to test our fears, remember the dead, and encounter any displaced souls of the past. Angie Macri’s chapbook, Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past, encourages us to do so with open eyes, open ears, and open hearts.
Some of these poems involve burial mounds. Some imbed from the dead: poets Edna St. Vincent Millay and H.D. Others respond to paintings that reveal past landscapes and bits of history. Here’s the beginning of one of those:
Group of People in a Woody Place, a Long Time Ago
We are in diamond light. We are in shades of white,
cream, pear-blossom white, in facets of diamond light.
We are on cool ground, hard pressed, skirts spread round,
barefoot, heels on ground, heels pear-blossom round.
See that? Hear that? The hard, clear light, the steady music? Here’s part of another poem, also based on a painting by Carroll Cloar:
Acker Drew and the Wild Canaries
Before she could count without just reciting,
apple of her father’s eye,
she was dead and buried, and him with her
until he walked into the orchard
and thick as leaves, there were the birds:
goldfinches, as gold apples, as a sign
of the little girl running and him behind,
a sign of the woods she once told him she had seen:
yellow and yellow, purple and white, green,
her dream, and lions that walked around.
Panthers, he told her, existed after all.
Baby, baby, the goldfinch call.
This poem continues, quietly, unsentimentally, bringing the girl back to her father by way of the bright birds and the magic of memory, “the goldfinch spell.”
Here’s an eerie image from “Orchard Moribund”:
The pace of each tree, the right distance between,
is each a hand up from a wrist in the ground,
a hundred hands then, and more, reaching
up to a sky as pink as any baby’s tongue. Hand
to mouth is early action. Yes, that is
the right place for the new fist.
It’s clearly an orchard, but I can’t help but see a cemetery, too, modest monuments paced out in rows, and the circle of life and death. That circle is present in a shell—the “spira mirabilis, / marvelous spiral”—in one poem and in the shells and bones of the next, “Interred.”
…Each holds the gloss of the ocean,
in sun like glass, with shadows
like fire’s hottest glow of virgin timber turned to coals,
the pulse of the animal growing under the ocean,
the fire growing and then subsiding
under the earth of the mound.
These are beautiful but, yes, frightening poems, telling the truths of time and decay, loss, change, and the forms our reverence can take. Here’s the first stanza of the title poem:
Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past
Fear nothing of the future or the past in carving flesh
from bones, green bones new to death.
Fear nothing of the future or the past in taking
the face, in breaking
off the jaw. Use long strokes along the bone
of every limb. Remove the lips, the brain. Polish the skull.
And here’s the middle stanza of “Broken Past Form,” helping to make sense of all our losses:
And if the shell is our mother,
we are water, caught and poured.
If the shell is our mother,
she is part of my throat, missing,
my face taken, my jaw.
“Fear nothing of the future / when the mouth is not here” commands the earlier poem. The words have been said, the songs sung.