Tuesday Review: Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty

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I have not blogged in a long while, but I am getting back to it. I am going to start a new Tuesday Review series, where I review books of poems that I come across. I couldn’t think of a better way to launch the series than to start with poet Jami Macarty’s new chapbook book of poems Landscape of The Wait, published this year by Finishing Line Press.

With hauntingly beautiful images, Macarty maps a territory no parent wants to step foot in, let alone chart. She not only maps it, she paints it with painstaking precision and beauty, such that we can’t help but follow her into a space we would prefer never to go. In the collection, the poems traverse the heartbreaking landscape that a parent inhabits as she sits vigil over her adult child who lies in coma following a car accident.

The title poem, “Landscape of The Wait” lays it out there in lines that look and feel in some way like the lines of a map, the roads that start and end with words and brief thoughts that must, in those moments when it’s hard to know when or if to grieve or when or if to celebrate any small victory, feel disconnected.

wait

                           monitor                        when or ever

our want

                                                                  his eyes to open

doubt large now

                             breath or gravel

each instinct’s 

                            trance

 

Still, it’s the poem “Fracture” that opens the door, points the way in, both literally as the opening poem in the collection and figuratively as a map of how to cross from what was into the “wait.”

where I pull over                            to listen to

                                                       the desolate

cellular voice

 

a hummingbird                               needles weeds

invading                                          the clear felling

 

 

where pell-mell insterstate             his body

                                                       through the car window

happens happens happens      

Each moment in that moment of sudden awareness is fractured and we begin to see as Macarty does that the moments will never come together in the same way again. It’s not simply they way she carefully unfurls the images, however, it’s the way she uses the page that gives us the full impact of those vast extended moments.

son                                                          a shadowed Now

where days of no change                  extend beyond

days                                                       of change

Even in those poems where the images come at you with no break, there is a feel of floating, being suspended, in a space where there is no way to know where the roads end or begin or if they are even grounded in anyway. The poem “At the Time of Accident” shows this in a visceral way as we are given the son’s image of the accident as the poet imagines it in a montage of images that give us a sense of slow-motion suspension. We being to clearly feel the surreal nature of the wait.

airborne, he thought. hang-

ing on time’s lost line

suffer suspension,

he thought. near-sighted

horizon. no or-

dinary flying

In the end, there is no destination that this map can take the reader that is outside the wait. It doesn’t end. It suspends us in the landscape of waiting.  All there is is the wait, the continued space that Macarty calls to with heartbreaking longing in the poem “If Only What If.”

If only you took the back way

what if, approaching the toll booth, you pull over to search for change

if only your radio operative

what if the iPod had yet to be invented

if only the semi driver called in sick

what if he stopped for gas

~

If only no caveats with extended footnotes

if only attentive to randomness, exception

if no matter the unlocking, day can become road scarring

if no one deserves this, certainly not you

Macarty teaches contemporary poetry and creative writing at Simon Fraser University. She also advises and edits the online poetry journal The Maynard. Her chapbook collection Landscape of The Wait can be purchased at Finishing Line Press, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

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