After some 20 odd years in a faltering career in media, I am discovering poetry again. The expressiveness and strength of the words that people use to create this art form surprises me again and again. Recently I received a copy of The Light Changes by Amy Billone and her work has impressed me in ways unimaginable.
Page 13 First Words
The same way at five I stared from the tub
into my father’s terrified eyes after he broke
the bathroom door to save me because I hadn’t
heard his calls and as he shook my body
to bring me back to life I laughed and told him
I didn’t drown, the soap bubbles only filled my ears –
The same way at eight I looked into his gasping face
after he leapt from a moving car because I lay
sprawled on the grass by an upside-down bicycle
and as he lifted me with shaking arms I said I hadn’t
fallen but was writing a poem about how the clouds
were really cotton candy – The same way
at sixteen I crashed my car into a street light
and fainted on the hardware store floor, then woke
to see him gazing blankly at me from the doorway
too frightened to remember the name
of my hospital so I said it for him – The same way
in my twenties I regained consciousness
after a six and a half day coma because I jumped
in front of a train I was so surprised to recognize
my pale-cheeked father waiting like a marble statue
by my side when we rarely talked and he lived
in a distant city that I spoke my first words
even thought doctors had said if I survived
I would never recover language: Hi Dad.
There are situations that Billone deals with that may be shocking to many readers but they are thoughts that many people have had. Billone has done a brilliant job in exploring elements of the human condition that exist in the deep recesses of all of us.
Page 14 Grace
I was raped by a speeding train. I asked it to.
I threw myself before it. I extended my legs, arms.
It came when I called it. Oh what enormous
metal thighs. Oh what fast thudding hips. Again
again against my blackening eyes, skull, chest, waist-
I loved its greasy sighs. I loved its wild blows.
My mind flew away. Who pulled me from below?
Who fed me with a tube? Who brought me
sunflowers? Who hummed me lullabies? Who
pardoned me? Who ripped my shame in two?
Billone also deals with situations that may be universal themes for readers. Her writing brings the situation down to a personal level
Page 37 The Gun Salesman Said
So you’re here for the first time? You’ll be glad
to know that women, after training, strike
the bull’s eye more frequently than men. Once,
a lady fired at a life-size picture
of her husband she’d hung from the ceiling.
At last she shot the real guy in the chest
and herself, leaving their two kids behind.
Now I won’t let you use detailed targets –
You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. For you,
I recommend a twenty-two light weight
revolver. Go ahead, fill it up, push
the cylinder in place, step forward, bend
your knee, lean in, cock the gun, draw back, aim.
Keep in mind, if you flinch, I will smack you –
You need to press the trigger slowly – Then
you’ll be surprised when the explosion comes.
Remember, if you blink, I will smack you,
I will smack you. That’s right. Startle yourself.
Hit it – Surprise! Murder that hanging man –
Surprise! Again, again, with a tranquil
grip, bust open his stupid narrow heart.
The Light Changes by Amy Billone is a strong and vivid collection of poems. Her themes are universal and the subjects she uses are extremely personally. This is a great read.