Review by Barbara Ellen Sorensen
In Connie Post’s Prime Meridian, I lost count of how many times she used the words “falling” and “broken.” In the poet’s world everything is tenuous. Everything is breaking or about to break, is falling, or about to fall. Motherhood and childhood, two fragile experiences indelibly linked, can be forced into invisibility by a father’s abuse. And yet, the poet stands ready to recognize that “Sometimes a mother is a prayer/an altar upon which your knees break” (26).
Post is adept at pulling an imperceptible thread through each poem in the book as if they are connected without pauses shaped by punctuation, most noticeably periods. The poems in Prime Meridian are linked by themes such as escape and pain. Life and the body are fractured, tamped down, built on a faultline, on the brink of collapsing, scattered, fallen, bruised and broken.
Perhaps, in this time of a pandemic, for readers of poetry it is necessary to listen to those who have endured. Moreover, bravery is required as is a willingness to examine what it means to be human and to co-exist with the natural world. In Connie Post’s poetry there is an earned intimacy with the natural world and its offerings of solace and peace.
Relief comes with creatures that appear as apparitions, or spirit guides; salamanders scurry (8), and in a “Raven in Flight,” the poet observes: “years have passed and still/you land at random/on the uneven fence/of silence/always helping me/to understand/what it means to/live as the heretic/to realize/there is no contrition/in the fading light” (51). Flowers seem to forge redemption and much-needed love of self: “these days/I spend time/pulling petals/out of my body” (12).
Plants, as well as animals, transmogrify: “It seems normal/when I close the curtains/like anguish/the dawn crushes the fig trees/standing like naked bodies/outside my window” (15).
The poet carries empathy that is voluminous and all-encompassing; Post places herself in the soul of fish, of ravens, crows, salamanders, orphaned eagles, dogs, frozen lambs, a black squirrel. She does this precisely because they lift her up, they redeem her. Salmon sing, imploring her to “live in rebellion/careening with the white water/writhe until/the migration ends” (60).
The black squirrel summons her to “see how I have banished/ the secret body/within the body/… see his small heart pulsing/ how sorrow fills a cavern/and keeps beating” (61).This is how tragedy and life co-exist. These poems are prayers, prayers for the illness and sacredness that inhabit the body and, invariably, mercy blooms..
The resiliency of the human body is resonant in these poems, however, the poet is not headed toward obligatory forgiveness and love but to the only merciful path: that of survival and the recognition of the interconnectedness of everything in life. She arrives on this path after walking through fire: “I have been on fire/since the moment I walked/through this door” (22). Post implores the reader to “understand/why I bathe myself/in the ruined twilight” (50).
“To arrive where you want to be, everything depends on where you are.” writer Jose Saramago states, and indeed, by the end of Connie Post’s harrowing and breathtakingly eloquent book, the reader will know she has arrived.
Prime Meridian by Connie Post
Glass Lyre Press, 2020 [paper] ISBN: 978-1-941783-66-5
Barbara Ellen Sorensen is former senior editor of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society’s flagship publication, Winds of Change. Sorensen is a contributing writer to the Tribal College Journal. Sorensen has had three books of poetry published: Songs from the Deep Middle Brain (Main Street Rag, 2010), Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes (Able Muse Press, 2013), and Mary’s River (Kelsay Books, 2018). Her first book was nominated in 2011 for a Colorado Book award.