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The Feast Delayed

May 28, 2021

I had one of those weird experiences this spring where one part of my life overlapped with another part; one of the writing program administrators I chose for an outside review of the writing center turned out to also be a poet with a new volume coming out. She is Diane LeBlanc and her volume is entitled The Feast Delayed.

One of the poems, “Of Almost Believing,” deals with an issue you can never escape here, the always-unrequited longing for necromancy:

“Talk of resurrection
and I almost believe
a breeze could lift the dead

but this snake on the sidewalk
curved like a catalpa pod
doesn’t respond to my boot’s nudging,

no trace of pheromone
to excite the dog, no dance
left in the skin. Still, in a moment

like this, of almost believing,
I watched my sister’s eyelids, her lips
for reanimation, heat

dissolving stitches and opening
one last pull of muscle to prove
bodies don’t end like this.

Other poems evoke moments we’ve all experienced but never articulated so well, like “swallowing the bisque of dawn when anything is possible, before I remember who has died, who has been elected, who we are now without parents and the poets we never imagined dying.” In a poem about the burning of Notre Dame “sanctuaries crumble, and still/we unpack our sad picnic of need.”

A poem like “Nineteen years after Matthew Shepard’s Murder” expresses a shared grief, although from someone who knew Laramie before it became known for his murder, “a town of train whistles and pitchers of beer/where oncoming rodeo buckles like single headlights/broke long stretches of darkness.”

The poems I found most powerful seem most personal, but they capture the way many people feel. “Six Variations on an Accident” captures the way a person keeps replaying and trying to describing what happened after an accident, because “language is the velvet grenade/whose pin I keep replacing.” In “My Father’s Christmas Cardinal Comes Alive in My Hand,” an ornament suddenly “warms between my finger and thumb” but instead of the wished-for re-creation of cardinal, father, sisters, and Christmases past, what she gets is “the unlit density/of a bird that has flown into glass/and must be swept into a pot.”

Reading “Elegy for August” at the end of May, with walls of green still unfurling damply in the increasing warmth of every morning, a person can feel an ending implied from the beginning:

“The corn truck leaving the lot on Highway 3
takes with it pale tassels of summer light.

Husks holding sun like skin and stone are gone.
The ritual we make of August undone.

Soon, early darkness will pull me under
and want more until I almost forget these days

measured in cobs and butter. Absence thrives,
first like bull thistle and buckthorn sending seed

through guts, on hems, to open ground,
then as stems and stump, wintering without.

This grief, though slight, can be unforgiving,
the deep sliver no cache of hope will dissolve.

But tonight, a firefly pulses in the hydrangea, wayward
and lit from within, as some nights should be.

If you feel like you sometimes “walk snow-blind in search of landmarks,” as happens in the title poem, you’ll find a few landmarks for life in this volume. Like the way I came upon it, it’s full of moments like scenic overlooks that can show you how far you’ve come.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2021 6:25 pm

    Some poets are able to capture emotions and experiences in anecdotal images and somehow render them universal and yet also personal to the reader at one and the same time. Thanks for sharing these.

    • June 1, 2021 8:32 am

      Yes! It’s an amazing ability and invites readers in.

  2. June 1, 2021 4:59 pm

    Oh this sounds like a lovely collection. Enjoyed the Elegy for August poem and I like those lines you quoted, “swallowing the bisque of dawn when anything is possible.”

    • June 2, 2021 8:12 am

      Glad to hear it! “bisque of dawn” is so evocative.

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