Review of Poking through the Fabric of the Light that Formed Us: Songs and Stories to Read in the Mirror by Lora Bloom
Medina, OH: Blood Pudding Press, 2013. $7.00. paper.
I'll have to confess that I did not read Lora Bloom's poems in the mirror as the title of her chapbook collection suggests one ought; at least I didn't read it in an actual mirror. But, my metaphorical one worked just fine, and reading the poems through it left me a bit unsettled, in a good way. The mirror turned out to be a trick one, full of distorted reflections not necessarily the reader's own, but rather, those of an emotionally naked speaker, rendering the reader as voyeur.
Bloom's poems feel intimate but not necessarily inviting; the images are aimed to discomfit rather than assure, and at times, they embrace the nightmarish surreal. Take, for instance, the first stanza from "Caul":
Wrapped in sky and curled
jelled soft muscle spasms
your hands, lined and scarred, go transparent
jelly-veined like tv aliens
fingernails break below skin line
sky folds, crumples around your toes
spider-fingers suck from your lips
a naked baby in a green jelly-jar.
Eww, right? But then, the very notion of a caul, that filmy substance from which we break at birth, is mysterious and gooey. There are folkloric connotations here; a child born with a portion of the caul covering the face is considered lucky, destined for greatness. So, of course this poem, which appears early in the collection, suggests, well, birth, but in this case, it is a monstrous one.
Indeed, it's a birth into a sort of demimonde, the world of this collection. In "Daughters of the City" the characters are "basement bacchus women"
our skin congealed
our stories graffitied in the
scars and dirt that clung to us
mysteriously each morning.
And in "Green Frog Princess" "last night an older gentleman chained me to a bed/with pet-store paraphernalia/in a posh drive-in hotel". If we are indeed poking through the fabric of the light, we are also spending lots of time in the shadows.
The light that formed us also taketh away. "Not Sick" gives us a hospitalized woman, suffering, it would appear, from both dementia and the side effects of chemotherapy (she's nauseated and wearing a wig). She has grown delusional in the face of her mortality; the portrait is one of unsettling pathos, jarred in part by non-standard spelling and the imagery of illness:
in the sik [sic] room she covers her diarrhea with rose perfume
she is not dying she tells the nurse
it is her friend whose name she can almost remember
who wanders the halls in a wig she
borrowed from her mother's cabin
But not all is harsh. In the collection's final piece, "Remember," after a string of disturbing images of destruction and chaos, the poet leaves us with a very nearly nostalgic remembrance at the poem's conclusion:
we were so silly
with our babytalk
and our scribble scrabble
our awkward legs
and all those worlds in our heads
we were so funny
Poking through the Fabric of the Light that Formed Us is at times a bit overburdened by the presence of first person, and the repeated motifs suggestive of birth, tissue (especially skin) and bodily fluids can sometimes overwhelm. But the boldness of some of this imagery redeems the individual poems.
The collection works very well in printed chapbook form and is clearly thematic. The cover art, a brightly-hued surrealistic landscape by Russian artist Blueberrycrush, is well-suited to the content, full of distortions and light. The saddle stitching is accomplished with a brown, fringed thread in a trailing length, suggestive of animal fur, a tail. It's a playful touch in Blood Pudding's overall design. But when it comes down to telling these little stories in this little book, Bloom is not playing around.
You can by Poking through the Fabric of the Light that Formed Us: Songs and Stories to Read in the Mirror here.
Leslie LaChance teaches writing and literature at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Her poems have appeared in Quiddity, Birmingham Poetry Review, Juked, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, How She Got That Way, is forthcoming from Toadlily Press in fall 2013. She is the editor of Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration.