Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Warden - Rebecca Wolff (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Warden.  Rebecca Wolff.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2014.

Brooklyn New York's Ugly Duckling Presse is to be admired.  Along with pounding out dozens of the most interesting books of poetry every year they also produced chapbooks of equally assured and sterling quality.

Rebecca Wolff's Warden is a bit of a banshee scream.  These poems bitch, squeal and moan electric about someone who dared die before a mutual story-line played out.  True love defeated by a mistaken tick in the eternal clock,

But this is no Romeo and Juliet, Wolff is a modern, urbane survivor, burdened with that pain only the left behind know.

Admit No Impediment

I'm going to get up from the table
and go to the bathroom.

When I get back,
if your napkin has moved
from the left side of your plate
to the right, I'll
know you want to.

There will be no need to speak.
Or, wait a minute,
maybe it should be if your napkin
hasn't moved.

I want to make this
as easy for you
as I can.


Warden can be sultry, seductive and completely surprising.  Wolff keeps a strong straight arm on tone, does not allow her mourning to become maudlin, but she is enduring truly sad glamour.

People channel grief in a infinite variety of ways, Wolff's narrator's grief is tied inextricably to her libido, her passion is a direct tie to the prison Warden leaves her in.

How Could I Have Gone So Batshit Crazy

I'll tell you exactly.

When I could no longer have you with me
or beside me,
I was beside myself.

The fibre
and when severed

all my heart's blood ran out. I died. But I was

walking around dead and with your ghosted head

beside me all the time, on excursions

to get groceries, seated
by me

on the train, where
had never ridden
but we were

going places, you and I, I had to keep

you with me

so my eyes

inside your head
and all

through your eyes. Mania of
seeing through your eyes. At the molecular level, I
     reconstituted dead,
and even now the only happiness

that I know
is in those instances when I am mad again
and know
your love for me
again. Know it.


It's impossible for me to really consider what life might be like if I were to lose the woman I love.  I do think it is possible it would create moments of madness mixed in with the torrent of grief.  I've watched dear friends deal with this magnitude of loss and have never wanted to invade the privacy of it.

Rebecca Wolff's courageous prisoner doesn't appear to have that option, she is pleading for parole.

Let Your Secrets Die With Me

Coming flying around the corner as I do my only wish

is just to see you. Your head your face attached. Narrow

and finessed -- I only wish

just to see you. This is all that is left. And yet, and yes, that's total,
     what's broke, what is sorrow. What I learned

now to arrive: booming into sound, taking my only name
back from the crowd. You never spoke to me of

nothing but love, you never always said the things made a
template. I have

both the single and double and the minor in my rucksack. I
     have everything
that's yours and all the things you never gave me. I have gone

another round the corner left here. There is a place you left me.

Come now to the hollow derivation of your names. Egress further
complication to the name. You think cryptic stands of willow bank

caress my name? These are the famous sayings I have time and time
again professed, my public name. Tourniquet

correct, oblong

cancellation, I died when we were parted because everything
    you told me.

Caring only for your answer: die
today again when nothing tells me. That totality

was your name and what you told me, dies with me.


Wolff isn't looking for an easy way out of her morass and we all know that isn't there, but singing is a part of sorrow in many cultures and Warden is one plaintive song with monster High C clarity.

Today's book of poetry likes genuine, some dirt under the fingernails, Rebecca Wolff is all over that.

Rebecca Wolff

Rebecca Wolff is the author of three books of poems (Manderley, Figment, The King) and a novel,The Beginners, as well as numerous pieces of occasional prose. She is the editor of Fence and the publisher of The Constant Critic. A fellow at the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, she lives in Hudson, New York with her children.

Wolff brilliantly refuses to look over her shoulder as she writes and the pain that generated Warden is on full display, showing her injuries with greater ease and depth as the book nears its end and with devastating accuracy. Her poems remind us that no matter what, we must love, and the greatest pain is when that love fails.
     —John Ebersole


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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