by Fleda Brown
The University of Wisconsin Press. © 2007, 72 pgs.
ISBN: 0-299-22180-6
A Review by Grace Cavalieri

As spiritual leaders tell us, life is a horizontal plane. A flat line from birth to death with a bit of excitement in between. Then there is the vertical plane where artists live, so much light coming through them, it spills over and they make pictures and poems and things. If we are lucky the light can even form a constellation of stars. This is how I present Fleda Brown’s new book of poems, Reunion. The creative world has had its share of poems about family, mothers, and marriage; yet never exactly as Fleda Brown envisions it, imaging with her elegant poetic strokes. Suddenly the personal becomes a vital form of knowing, embodying a whole psyche, and then it even includes ours. Not by freehand are these poems made…more like an athlete of God who lifts and puts so gracefully and sure, we are easy in our own skin.

There are sophisticated attitudes in these poems which the author registers with pleasure. Or that is how we feel … for what she takes into her body and mind for sustenance is what we do also…a richness and harmony, but more–a longing. Beneath these poems is a search for something that will not fade. I am always looking for evidence that the soul will not disappear anytime soon in American poetry.

Here is an attempt to define reality through interactions of relationships; with, at times, the whole poem as metaphor. How shall we behold this then? As the King of King said to the White Rabbit “Begin at the beginning and go all the way to the end.” You’ll feel good about the state of the art.

Twelfth Wedding Anniversary Poem – pg 42.

I’ve lasted three days longer now than marriage number two,
a week longer than my number one. But the twenty-three years you

shared with your previous darling – I have a ways to go.
Still, we have to account for the way time compresses, distills.

We’ve been together barely nineteen percent of your life,
now, twenty percent of mine. All that wake behind us, that strife,

it’s as if we’re wading through peanut butter. Neither of us
keeps souvenirs, other than our children, but every time you touch

my elbow, the inside of my wrist, I think of the difference. Not
think. The undertow of the past sounds a tone against that spot

like a temple bell under my skin. We’re never entirely alone.
Let me put it this way: suppose we go to the matinee, our known

life left out there in the sun. We’re ready to fling ourselves into
the plot, shed a few tears, which is the fun of it. Something new.

Then we’re stunned by the inside light, made of all our infinite
remembered people and places, reshuffled to form this exquisite,

this strange tale. Sure, it makes us sad, or sorry, but the edifice
itself is pure bliss: all of us here, we’re all caught up in the kiss.

Grace Cavalieri is a poet and a playwright. She produces “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress” for public radio.