Jennifer Franklin’s If Some God Shakes Your House explores love, women’s rights, life and death as well as the burial and unearthing of things. Jennifer navigates through all these subject matter with such smooth a cadence that one could literally gulp her poems in place of water.  I most especially love how her poems tease, how they crawl into the minds of the readers, create a presupposition and then debunk it. There’s a radical audacity to this style of writing. One of such instances is in the poem “Antigone—” (p. 5) where she recounts how she “buried a body at night” even when she knew she “would still be caught” thus creating a presupposition of murder in the minds of the audience and tension. However, towards the end of the poem, she says “I felt water but my mouth//remained dry. It held the words/anger and apple. You thought/I was going to say soil and love” Thus dousing the tension and debunking the presupposition of the murder of a loved one.

Something worthy of note is the way Jennifer makes use of euphemistic analogies to juxtapose similar ideas and, in that, creates a comparison and similarity between them. In the poem “Memento Mori: Bird Head” Jennifer gives an illustration of a bird’s head stuck by its own blood as a hawk had devoured its body then moves on in the poem to compare that with how she gave herself, her whole body to love such that only her eyes remained. To achieve this, she recounts “On my first/organ donor form, I checked off each box except eyes,/as if there were some way to see, even after death” in the above quoted line, one can see how she compares donating all of one’s organ to giving all of one’s self to love. It is in this little magic that the beauty of Jennifer’s work is discovered.

Also, in Jennifer’s collection, one can always feel the sting of sorrow that permeates the subject matter of love. Each time love is mentioned in a poem in the collection, it is often followed by a burial or a “leaving”. This melancholic tone, though sad, is sincere and I greatly appreciate Jennifer for it. A poem that best describes this is “Memento Mori: red First, Always”. Where she contemplates:

Like holding a blossom that becomes the whole world,

there is nothing outside this quiet room. When you

touch me, thousands of flowers fall from your fingertips.

your fan hangs motionless from the ceiling, suspended

like our bodies in time, suspended like the question neither

of us wants to answer. Love, one of us is always leaving.

The recurrent usage of dictions that pertain to death, burial, corpse, ground, soil and earth jolts one from the fantasy of life to the reality of the inevitability of death. Jennifer is a writer that is conscious of life and by extension, its finality This is reflected where she says “Anyone can throw//a corpse below ground./it takes love to prepare a body for the earth.//it was not courage, I couldn’t/listen to the violin while/you lay speechless”.  The above quoted lines are proof that there’s so much the loss of a loved one can teach a person, that grief comes with its own lessons and for it, learning isn’t always optional.

If Some God Shakes Your House is a fine collection, laced with the feminist struggle for freedom from patriarchy, love, loss, death, the finality of things, grief. But also it is beckon to romance, hibiscus, apples and motherhood.

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