Notes Toward a Review


The days are domestic: I look out windows while washing dishes, I sing songs to Avery while folding laundry, and I trim weeds in rosemary while fog rolls out.

There’s much fog. So much that we walk though it, in it, and with it. I’ve seen him squint in both the sun and fog. This is California.

Domesticity, this haze, isn’t a tethering; but it teeters toward feeling bound. Avery’s body stretches out while my own hunches over. At night, we roll into each other and, in the morning, he wants to be held again. He becomes a heavy brooch. He pins to me and I read about feeling “touched out.”

Yes, touched out and out of touch. The work of writing goes unwritten, but stays in my head as a composition always in process.

For almost a month now, I’ve been taking notes for a review of Sean Thomas Dougherty’s book Scything Grace. His work and my domestic moment hold the same narrative of being wrapped, swaddled in still moments.

Dougherty’s book came at the best and worst time: reminders of Lake Erie, grapes, men with berry-stained hands, the way sweet somethings rot. It also gave me a kind of survivor’s guilt for having Avery, for watching a baby grow, and for, sadly, “getting out” of Buffalo (my father’s words). The poems and the baby make me feel papery. And yet, there is so much of the conditional in his syntax, so much reliance on “if” and “yet” and “perhaps.”

Dougherty is asking the language to shift and bend for his own feelings. He is attached to the body of “how things are said” and finding that there isn’t room for “what needs to be said.” I see him sitting in bed with a fever and looking for words, sentences, and poems to complete his thoughts and respond to the fever. Last month, I had a bout of mastitis and Avery stayed in bed, ate, and made it go away. It’s been remarkable to see another body correcting another (my own) body.

At home, in Buffalo, there is an old wooden house I played with as a child. There were cloth bears that lived in the house: a mother, father, son, daughter, and baby bear. They lived in the house and I made them talk. Now, I am waiting for Avery to tell me if I’m doing okay, if he’s doing okay. I am looking out the window and receiving omens from the way the sink clogs, the way the birds spit out shells. I am reading Dougherty and understanding this feverish position of wondering when we’ll know how to say something that means something, how we’ll know when to say that we’re all doing okay.


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