Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Review Monday - The Blessing Box

I read several books a month and I review some of the newer ones for various publications. I’ll be sharing some of my book reviews with you on Mondays beginning today. Some have been previously published; some have been written just for this Blog. Today a slim book of poems.

The Blessing Box - By: Maria Morrison

Is Maria Morrison’s The Blessing Box a memoir told in poems, or pieces of other lives glimpsed and absorbed into her soul and retold in first person? I don’t know. I do know what reaches me in every poem is the ‘I’, and the ‘My’.

The feeling is most poignant in the poem The Hours: “my mother photographed/the hours we had/each day between /my father leaving the house/and my father returning…I pull them out/to remember what we were/supposed to be.”

In Constellations: “Each night,/crystals of frost form like stars/on our bedroom windows/from our warm breath asking-/When should we go for help? When / can we come back in?”

The lines are simple and straightforward, as a child telling us her secret. We lean close, and say, yes, or oh, no! This is not an easy childhood we are invited to witness. This slim volume is a life told in vignettes stripped achingly bare. It seduces us in the early pages with sunshine and prayer, and then it takes us farther into dark corners and asks us to read between the lines. This is poetry noire It opens up parts of our own soul we do not know we have until a turn of phrase echoes deep and resonates throughout our being and reminds each of us our own fragile childhood and how it shaped our lives.

Morrison wears no rose-colored glasses, as she looks back on her childhood and then at the woman it created. The naked words seem stark with a matter-of-fact and childlike narrative voice that flashes back to past hurts that repeat in each generation. We witness her innocence flee before love that hurts, and her hope hang by a slender thread. In Monastic, she tells us her siblings were each named for those who came before and how the cycle continued, but she ends with, “I am their last./I have my own name.”

I hear an echo of the women in Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. An-Mei: “My mother not know her worth until too late – too late for her but not for me.” And again, Suyuan to her daughter June “I see you.”

If this is Maria Morrison’s story, it is between the lines that the full tale is told. I read The Blessing Box, and know it’s not too late. I see you; I see me. I have my own name.

First published in First Draft Magazine and posted on
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