Dear Liz. Lisa Andrews. Indolent Books. Brooklyn, New York. 2016.
Ok, you've probably heard this from Today's book of poetry before but everyone in this office is in love with Carson McCullers. If they aren't, they don't last long. So when Today's book of poetry opened Lisa Andrews' Dear Liz to this quote:
And how can the dead be truly dead when they still
live in the souls of those who are left behind?
-Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
we suspected we were on terra firma, in high cotton, following the right road.
Lisa Andrews loves the movies as though theatres were churches and films religion. Today's book of poetry can relate to that particular sensibility. Growing up that was where all our heroes/heroines were made. Dear Liz entertains, uses movies/cinema as fodder, but in fact is an eloquent eulogy for a departed friend.
Advantages of Watching a Movie
From 1944 at 3:00 in the Afternoon
1. I have not been born; therefore,
none of my friends are sick, dead or in trouble.
2. If the movie ends, it can begin again. What I am watching has the illusion
of a beginning, middle and end, but it's really a loop.
3. If the movie from 1944 is, say, two hours long, I know, in the last five
minutes or so, what's likely to happen has to happen soon. There's only so
4. In this movie, there are no insurance companies, no double billing, no
dedicated service teams, no issue resolution experts, no hierarchy of
obfuscation, inefficiency or cruelty.
5. No one inside this movie is going to correct my grammar, fire me, suggest
I find another place to live.
6. No once inside this movie is going to call and call and put me in the
position of not picking up for as long as the phone keeps ringing, because
I know, without knowing, this is not a call I want to receive, and I actually
think if I don't pick up the call, I can keep it from happening. The "it"
cannot happen, will not happen, cannot have happened. Even if the caller
hangs up and keeps calling back, I will not have to answer or willfully
ignore this phone. If the phone rings, it's safe to assume it's not me they
7. Nothing I know can harm me now. Not here, not inside this movie. The
movie is the preexisting condition, and we are the condition not yet in
8. Nothing bad has happened yet.
9. Not that wind-knocked-out-of-you feeling; not that abrupt lack of desire
for anything in the present or future tense--unimaginable state. No tears
at inopportune moments--the airplane, the department store, the cross-
town bus--the tears that are endless. The body, the heart, the mind would,
if it could, cry forever.
10. Only, if I watch this movie from 1944, if I can somehow enter the movie,
the way, for example, you could and did--could not help but enter each
movie, pass through to the very inside--it means, even now (now that I,
too, am inside this movie)--no matter that it is 1944--we are both alive.
11. It's a little like breakfast in childhood. No one is drinking yet; no one is
screaming or crying--not at 7:00 a.m. Not in 1944.
12. I haven't met you yet or been born; therefore, you can't have died, are not
now dead, especially since I don't think I ever really believed--apparently
not--even when it should have been obvious--inescapable cold fact--not
even then did I think you were dead. After all, I didn't see it. Not the end.
Not with my own eyes.
13. But I've seen you enter a movie. And when you told your film professor
you believed every movie was real, how whatever was happening on the
screen was also happening to you, he said, I'm afraid I can't help you with
that--which means you are inside the movie I am watching now, which
means you are the movie I am watching.
14. I leave your phone numbers and address intact. I will not update, I will
not delete. I will remember.
15. The way, in that hushed auditorium, you shouted, Don't drink that glass
of milk! The way you stood in that theater in Times Square, announced:
I am Spartacus.
16. If I watch a movie, then am I anywhere nearer? Are you?
17. When I see something I know you'd like to see, I lose control.
18. It's the opposite of the way a friend of mine, pregnant, would muse, when
crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, Oh, this is a view my child will one day see.
You see, it's like that, only in reverse.
19. But not with the movie from 1944. You could be sitting right here beside
me, watching every frame. Even now. And if I watch what you have
watched, am I not watching you? Am I not being watched by you?
Dear Liz is a sad playground littered with elegant memory and palatable love/grief, the knowing certainty that there is no return from death. Andrews has imagined every generous plot she can conjure but is left with the knowledge that once that real life screen goes dark there is no coming back.
Andrews laments the loss of a dear friend in a language she is certain the friend will understand. The loss so real and immediate that clearly Andrews is haunted by it -- until she turns it into the melancholy music of poetry.
I don't know who left it or why--
this message on a Friday in the middle of the day.
Not the usual 8:00 a.m. hang up. Not Citibank
Identity Theft Solutions. Not Capitol One
still calling with an offer. No wrong number
about a change in an appointment--not mine.
No survey. No one asking for money or my vote.
No one telling me the car is outside. No one asking
about a sign in our yard. No solvable mystery--
not like the friend who called as the Easter Bunny--
a mystery it took us years to solve.
No record under "calls received"--
not "private caller" or "caller unknown"--
not even "out of area." No record at all.
Only this voice--a woman singing, then whistling--a voice
barely embodied by breath--hypnotic and jazzy
and pulling me in--this bluesy lullaby from beyond--
drowning in static and taking its time--
the only recognizable words--sometime and goodbye--
a voice so close to the one I keep telling myself
it can't possibly be.
Today's book of poetry's morning read was dominated by the women in our office this time around. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, orchestrated the reading, added some film references when she thought we needed them, and generally ruled the roost. The readings were gentle, the conversation that followed full of missing friends.
Dear Liz was an excellent vehicle for our morning read, we all climbed in and drove it a while. These poems are diamond hard, heart soft, and by the end of our reading of Dear Liz everyone in the office was a Lisa Andrews fan.
The Dead Are So Invisible
The dead are so invisible--no matter how deeply felt
their absence is--their presence, so resolutely denied us.
It's almost boring really--how invisible they are--
like some childhood game, Come out, Come out, Wherever you are.
The dead are it. No we are it--and this
the coldest game of hard to get. And still
we chase them, want them to save us,
come back for us--no matter the dead
have others things on their minds--
and who can say what mind might stand for?
Surely the dead are not so preoccupied with the living.
No one wants that, do they? And yet,
who if not us will they come back for? And how else
will we know how to find them?
A bit of a revolving door here at the Today's book of poetry offices. You've all heard about the sad departure of Odin. Yesterday our Chief of Security, Otis, left for a month in Belgium. He'll be drinking fruity beers and eating "frites" with mayo by the time he reads this. In other office news our next door neighbour Caroline is leaving for a month in South Africa in a couple of days. But rest assured dear reader, Today's book of poetry isn't leaving his front porch.
As long as our much maligned mailman Yves continues to bring poetry to the door we'll hang around. Volumes like Lisa Andrews' Dear Liz continue to raise the ante. Dear Liz is one sad geography -- but it is also a book full of promise, Lisa Andrews can burn.
ABOUT THE AUTHORLisa Andrews grew up in Michigan and moved back to her native New York to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. A graduate of Hunter College, she received an MA in English Literature and an MFA in Poetry from NYU. Recipient of a New Voice Poetry Award from the Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA, Lisa has had residencies at Blue Mountain Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband, artist Tony Geiger.
BLURBSLuminous, whimsical, and heartbreakingly tender by turns, the poems in Lisa Andrews’s Dear Liz are a portrait of a beloved friend, movie-going companion, and fellow human, a portrait unfailingly loyal to the telling detail, unfailingly appreciative of the quotidian. To read these poems is to enter a world that is full of feeling, at once loving and quirky. There is grief here, but these poems, more, help us continue in the world, which Andrews, sometimes plainly, sometimes in stunning images, shows us to be full of beauty. Dear Liz is a moving reminiscence, and to be offered the friendship this book offers its readers is to feel healed and restored.
In these poems that confront the loss of a dear friend, Lisa Andrews makes us confront our own connections in the world and our own mortality. Here, we long to walk familiar city streets; to slice the avocado so thinly that there is little left to slice; to stand in the oblivious snow; to sit in the darkened theater and stop Joan Fontaine from drinking the milk; and we long to do it in the company of someone we love. An homage to friendship and to living, Dear Liz is a beauty, a heart breaker, an oracle, and a lament.
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