Sunday, February 14, 2016

Consequences Of A Moonless Night by Loueva Smith

Published by Texas Review Press

Reviewed by G. B. Welch, Ph.D.

In her first chapbook, Consequences of a Moonless Night, Winner of the prestigious Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize, poet Loueva Smith takes us from the East Texas piney woods where she was born to a park bench that fronts the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.  With stunning imagery she tells us that her darkness is always with her, it rearranges the furniture. The family is steeped in Pentecostal beliefs that the world will end in her lifetime.  My father’s mother walks/ with the beast of the Apocalypse/ on a leash down to the livestock/ pond…  for exercise.  Her father tries to build a fire on a cold night with wet wood.  It smolders, but no heat.  He plays Love Me Tender with five rubber bands on a cigar box.  They are so poor the static electricity in their hair has to serve as Christmas lights.  The only thing her father will give Ms. Smith are the names of the constellations in the night sky while her mother remains secluded behind stacks of romance paperbacks breathing through rose petals the scent of a love she longs for.     

Growing up, Ms. Smith is closest to her older brother and, as readers, we stand with the family as he dies, too young, too soon.  He has given her books telling her what to expect from this world: Kafka and Anne Frank’s Diary.  And she asks of her kitchen chairs, when they were felled in the forest did they long to be made into flutes, to have holes drilled for song?  She rescues a crippled bird and tells it, You and I are rooted things.  But then, if Jesus can work on the Sabbath, making clay birds fly, can Ms. Smith become the poet she’s dreamed of being since she was a girl carrying Emily Dickenson’s poems in her pockets? 

Dearest Marie is the first in a series of love letters.  Taken as a group they form a transition between the loss of a loved one, and the beginning of a new love.  In these poems Ms. Smith explores unfamiliar territory.  I can’t learn to pronounce even the simple words…..My voice hides in a cut-lass sugar bowl.  The poems are exploratory, sometimes cautious, certainly gentle.  I touch her ridged childhood scar/……the letter M/ the same as the burn on the inside/ of my lip where I seldom say her name.  Tarot Pair and Recipe introduce the pitfalls of loving.  Marie’s recipe for a meal includes the knee joints of St. Joan of Arc.  Let her pray all night …../ ….It makes the flesh tender.  And finally the last poem, Dearest Marie, (the second poem with this title) unveils the poet with truth, candor, and strength.  Consequences of a Moonless Night leaves our minds wobbly with its expansive journey through lyrical imagery.    


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