Image Credit: Max La Rochelle via Unsplash
Content Warning: The book reviewed here contains sexual assault, death, and medical violence.
“i find home in cavities/in that darkness and space in between/learn to hold my tongue,” the speaker says in Zoë Luh’s debut collection of poems, [and time erodes like thunder].
The pieces in this book are arranged according to season. There’s a definite temporal aspect to the poems, which lends itself well to this ordering. In the section, Winter, the poems become epistolery, where the speaker writes letters to her friend, whom she has lost.
In one of the pieces in this section, entitled “Clay,” the speaker defines depression:
“It’s the curse of Narcissus in reverse./When I look in the mirror it only shows monster,
only shows shattered,/only shares shadow,” the speaker says. This is a really novel way in looking at depression. It’s a lovely and haunting image. Instead of loving her own image like Narcissus, her illness makes her despise herself.
“I stare anyways, pick at my skin until I peel away layers,/reveal newborn clay, and
shape her into someone the mirror adores./And I always loved clay,” the speaker says, transitioning from defining her depression to beginning to heal herself. In a way, the picking away of the skin is reminiscent of therapy–the pulling back layers of an illness, and getting down to what’s really wrong, so that the person afflicted can finally heal.
“In Chinese medicine,/they used to eat the clay to heal their pains,/hope that she would heal our bodies,/heal our souls,/hope for more life,” the speaker says, posing a method for further cementing her healing process.
“And maybe if I go back to my roots,/honor my ancestors and eat their bones of clay,/I could be healed…I will forgive like clay…I will be earth again,” she says. I love this idea of going back to ancient wisdom to find healing, and it’s particularly powerful here. The speaker has excised the layers that were dragging her down, gotten down to the fresh layers beneath the surface.
Luh is a spoken-word poet, and I would definitely be interested in an audiobook version of this because the syntax and diction of [and time erodes like thunder] lends itself well to being read out loud. This book is a moving portrait of a woman who has walked through the fire and come out on the other side, still whole. This book is available now through Assure Press.