What is it to drive straight through? There are no stoppages or detours; rather, there’s a fierce determination to get “there.” And just where is that? Perhaps we can never know; the destination, if one exists, is part of the mystery this fine collection repeatedly provides, as outside the windows of the hurtling vehicle lies darkness. Think of Creeley, as he urges his friend to “drive … look/out where yr going”: “the darkness sur-/rounds us.” Or recall Isabel Archer: “A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads that one can’t see—that’s my idea of happiness.” And the book before you truly provides a (self-) Portrait of a Lady.
“Through” indeed. To drive through is to pierce, and there are poems here which will penetrate, sometimes painfully, especially if you come to them with a male ego (and what male cannot?). But more: one desires to be through, done. Or one seeks to go through to “the other side,” where lies “The Unseen.” In the poem of that title, the first of the second section, Jennifer Campbell writes,
Not a case of a writer seeing the unseen,
or finding a world that always existed
only to conquer it
just a routine
de-scaling, a mundane but nearly
impossible process: be happy
with what you’re given.
So there’s to be no solution to the mystery but the nearly impossible process of acceptance. In “Breast Ironing,” “she” can accept the callowness of the “five frat brothers,” for “they knew little of the tricks/and mysteries to a woman’s body.” Can they (or we) ever know of those tricks and mysteries, especially with the multiple suggestions of the word “tricks”? You will, oh man, be tricked, nor will you ever learn the trick to understanding, the tricks of the relationship trade. You will be deceived, but the magic abounds; you should work towards acceptance, however nearly impossible.
The drive is straight through a huge metaphorical day, during which one must “Descend, look for another way in,” gather “a necessary collection/of concentrations,” until the hour of Reckoning:
At 4 a.m.,
I am stormed, drenched
in our insatiable symbiosis.
Reading the subtle lyrics of this book, we can hope to be thus drenched—and with acceptance.