* poetry by Laura Kasischke from MQR 54:1 Winter 2015 *
Nothing’s perfect. Only
the first summer day I dipped
my son’s tiny toes
into the cold careless gray
of Lake Michigan.
Also, my second glimpse
of my second husband
who wasn’t my husband then.
A month ago, the world lost Tomas Tranströmer, the Nobel Laureate who also had a career as a psychologist working with youth and drug addicts. A number of his poems seem to arise from this work, from his concern for those living on the outskirts of society. By and large, these are not poems explicitly about people on the fringes, but rather poems that trouble the very idea of a civilization possessing outskirts. Why are some people forced to the edge and some comfortable in the center? Who draws the lines, and where? And, centrally for Tranströmer: what is possible in the middle spaces?
I subscribe to the Poetry Foundation’s “Around The City” emails that contain information about events happening in and around Chicago. It was in February when, two-thirds of the way down the list of events, I landed on a name I had never heard before who would be coming to the city in March, performing at the Poetry Foundation, and doing something that for years I had struggled to do: integrating poetry with dance.
To read Service is to learn the rules of engagement, and later, the methods of disengagement, if there can be such a thing. We slip backward and forward in time, one unwitting, vulnerable foot perpetually in enemy territory, one moment searching under the couch for a hair tie and the next moment, “in a hallway I will never be able to describe, I gulp crematorium-hot air and drip sweat onto the flak-jacketed back of my best friend, who will breach the door and survive the next several seconds. When I knee him he moves as if lives depend on it. Lives depend on it.”
Brenda Shaugnessy’s powerful third volume of poems, Our Andromeda, has been considered as a collection many places. Shaugnessy says the book “has to deal with the notion of alternative realities, alternate selves, doubles, twins, sisters…. What if this didn’t happen? On Andromeda, our sister galaxy, it’s possible that we could have been the same exact doubles of ourselves.” Over at Bookforum, Monica Ferrell says this about the book’s title poem: “In a twenty-page apostrophe to the speaker’s child, the story of his birth and injury is told with heart-rending plainness.”