And whatever singing, forgetting or nightmare
howled in this house between man and woman
the child laughing or stilfling
in clenched sleep, here
it is summer and cool, the shelves
green with okra, beans, pears in clear jars.
But with these images and thoughts come other memories, painful recllections that transcend their own moments in time to overshadow all of the past. Adcock writes of how youth can be darkened by a mother’s death; achingly tries to reconstruct a father’s death in a hunting accident; and relfects on the fragments left by the past ina grandmother’s quilt chest:
The wide lid is one board,
heart of a pine we’d never recognize,
shut now upon nearly nothing,
a faint salt dust only,
flakings from the dreamed-under patterns,
leather-flecks from saved baby shoes
sweet odor of dead sex, vinegar or sweat,
a hundred and fifty years
in this wood’s strong current.
Writing of both joy and loss, Adcock explores in these poems how life is forever alloyed with death and how hope must, of necessity, be mixed with apprehension and sadness.
Betty Adcock is the author of six previous books of poetry and the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Poets’ Prize, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Prize for Poetry, the Hanes Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She taught for twenty years at Meredith College and for ten years at the Warren Wilson MFA program for Writers.
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