Funny, chaotic, spilling over with breathy exuberance, centered in the imagination but anchored in the relational points of who we meet and greet and love in our daily lives, Sara June Woods’ Don’t Smoke in Bed (Saucepot Publishing) is, simply put, a dream of a chapbook. The writing manages to be simultaneously raucous and thoughtful, comprised of statements that are essentially matter-of-fact but still somehow slightly whimsical in the way they are presented. “You are soft & clean,/& my hands are so dirty/from touching tires all day,/from my job as a tire toucher,” Woods writes in “Dear Understandable Thing,” for example. In truth, any number of jobs might involve touching tires, but are usually not described as such in whole, and thus the author involves the reader in something tongue-in-cheek, part of this not-so-silent invitation to enter a world in which we will discover as we consider the chapbook as a whole, a transition is occurring. (That that transition is described, elucidated, remarked upon in such a way that might best be described as slightly ajar of itself, but completely aware of its own power—no it’s not just aware, it makes power—but all the while in language that retains a certain naturalness as it twists and turns through whatever idea it holds, is summed up nicely by the title of the first poem in the collection: “Dear Consciousness, Dear Unconsciousness.”) Written as a series of letters, individual titles/salutations like “Dear Thing That is Trembling in the Cold Dark but Not Early,” “Dear Sun on This Book I’m Reading, Dear Cup of Fresh Coffee, Dear Vase of Flowers My Host Was Critical of,” and “Dear Thing in Me That Wants Out & Quick,” express an ebullience of language, but also an urgency that still has time to consider itself, even to wonder at itself. That urgency and wonder is expressed in the latter of the aforementioned three poems where the speaker states:
I understand, I promise.
You are an impatient child
& I am a mother who is also
an impatient child.
I wanted a change that’s not coming,
Or not coming fast, it’s hard to tell which,
Or what form it will take.
Probably it will take no forms,
or all forms, depending.
Both my legs are in slings
but I still can walk,
& you just push light out
your skin like it’s no big deal.
Something is being discovered here and relayed to the reader in a conversational lyricism that makes us pause, draws us in. We have form here, form that is both not-at-all and all-encompassing. We have compromised legs, or whatever legs represent —an image, perhaps, of that which avails the body of movement through the spheres we inhabit—but those legs “in slings” aren’t hindered. And we have a ‘you’ who does something so seemingly marvelous like pushing “light out your skin” without any trouble at all. This is a world of opposites and constants we have entered, and Sara June Woods plays exceedingly well at the balancing act.