In between every bird, our bones, the quotidian finds expression in a soundness that opens the ear to the speakings of the most ignored life forms. In their very own words, even what is considered inanimate is paid close attention: “i am enraptured by the shadow of everyday things.” they proudly say, “kettle, dirty dish, towel, knife”. Their appreciation is replete in this body of work, here is also one of them: “spot my first bluebonnet between sidewalk and / curb. pull over and bow from reverence. in the / distance, the echo of a woodpecker, feasting on / bugs in all the dead trees.” This collection of poems is a harvest that comes after planting the ear in the heart of “everyday things”. The language is an attempt at translation which is coherent, intentional, vivid, thus commendable.
The poet adopts an unconventional approach in writing with a cadence that is phenomenal in their way with diction. The opening lines carry the same vibe to its last. In the earliest part of the book, we are greeted with an offensive take on trans life, then, the scene at an imaging center where they are accompanied by their grandma who reads out the “biography of dvorák”. As their grandma reads, “there are, of course, no / windows. plastic chairs and cream-coloured walls: we could be anywhere”. “wait”— a stand-alone word immediately used after the preceding words gives the effect of a pause, and a tap that brings them back to the consciousness of the stark reality before their eyes.
The persona and their grandmother are here for “a quick ultrasound”. There is the attending figure of a technician behind the whirring and humming of the “machines” giving the prediction of a medical procedure about to be scheduled, for the removal of a growth. This is vividly illustrated in the disturbing scene, where, “the technician calls the doctor. / the doctor calls / more technicians. they are saying the word / tumor. they are saying the word cancer. they / point to the bubbly gray screen.” In the midst of this heavy moment of the unofficial diagnosis, “my grandmother turns the page” screams absence in the moment, and an act omenous of loss.
In the following procession of sentences is a scene where the poet is on a bus in Jerusalem where “a haredi man pulls a surgical mask over his eyes” perhaps to portray orthodox Judaism with a characterization of those in rejection of modern secular culture. Worthy of note is how the feeling of touch, sight, and sound imageries help bring each line to life, all in an approach that is delicate, yet striking.
On page nine (9), one comes to see the manifestations of our parents we cannot escape. Here, for example, the persona encounters a roach scurrying towards them and “i scream in my mother’s voice”. In the lines that graced this book of repute, the mother is reserved a special place of communion from the other side of the divide. They are in the words: “before bed, i fantasize about sewing buttons / all over my arms. wouldn’t that be fun, i tell / the phantom of my mother. the phantom of / my mother says: i would never do that to you. / symphonic, the way her voice distorts into the tintinabulation of spring (pg. 26). Memory plays an important part in the poet’s life as noted here, “between every gaze, a bird. between every bird / our bones. in the hem of a garment i stitch my / memory. frayed and yearning. it is the moon over egypt”. The memory of their loved one cannot be forgotten, no matter how hard they tried. “and what do i know? how to hurl my mother / across an ocean only to see her face in the oak / trees.” To always endure the passing of time, the poet says “in every cactus, i carve my mother’s / name ” (pg. 17). This book is also a cactus.
I enjoyed the fine blend of prose and poetry— each with a distinctiveness that compliments each other as they form a composition of voice burdened with storytelling. I also celebrate the vulnerability it is unafraid to show through out the book. There is the health challenge, financial needs, queerness, and living specific truths highly susceptible to criticism. I very much love to call these the Midas touch— how every line it came in contact with, became highlighted, is a marvel. The words glow with the warmth of self-awareness and acceptance in the words: “the whole world depends upon my womaness”.
The persona is caught between two geographical maps: Texas and Palestine. The atmosphere of both worlds share an open sky. The birds sing still. Borderless. The flowers remain generous with their beauty. The equation is one, in which, survival and domestic intimacy, are constants. It is true then, that emet ezell was first, a witness, before being identified as a poet. Home trails them around as they witness. Family ties strongly permeates this body of work. One comes to appreciate seeing through a lens different from theirs. No generousity beats a shared experience of this kind.
The chaotic life of adulthood chews hard on the guts of the persona who has a flat tyre to repair watching YouTube tutorials, and two missed calls from “the cancer center”. We are introduced into their world in a scene where responsibility holds them tightly by the scruff of their neck. There is also a lingering debt echoed by pockets full of minus signs. In an effort to see this settled, we find discouragement (in this very scene they have a flat tyre) as a symbolic imagery where “mockingbirds bicker / in the oak trees.” The poet calls the requested date of birth and patient number confirmation, a “great shredding of my life digits.” The preceding lines not only reveals a terminal health challenge, but a financial situation where the answer to the question on their new health insurance plan is, sadly, the silence from their end which is metaphorically put: “i gulp a pigeon”.
In the midst of these series of unsettling situations, a lover features as a bringer of solace simply by their presence which is appreciated in the words, “stand in / the doorway to my lover’s room and cherish their closed eye slumber.” We also find their verbal communication playing the role of physical touch in the words graced with unconventional metaphors: “in whispers / their words spread across my back. Sand dunes / leaves blowing across cement.”