"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eve, Reimagined: A Review of Megan Merchant’s In the Rooms of a Tiny House

Megan Merchant’s new chapbook In the Rooms of a Tiny House by ELJ Publications has language so rich and vibrant, it will leave you awestruck. Merchant expertly reimagines the Adam and Eve myth in this collection; in lieu of Eden, we have a tiny house, a dollhouse perhaps, a metaphorical fish bowl where we can observe Eve loom large as loving partner, shameless adulteress, and eager mother-to-be.

In the first and eponymous poem, we peer in and see objects: an oblong afghan, a holy book of poems, an uneaten apple, and “a drawing of the eight-armed sea/chewing fingernails off the dead.” Eve is a woman in love, an intuitive woman who is certain love will be fruitful: “she feels good news licking/the soft linen in her veins.” In “Every Day Is Spring,” and “Burning Barrels,” Eve is learning to be and do, a newlywed in every sense of the word, trying to find her place in the house, explore who she is as woman—an unfettered sorceress who “boils a tin of apple-white and ambrosia, soaks the seeds,/ paints constellations on the bedroom wall in alphabetical order.” And yet, she is childlike, a new being with a curiosity for the world around her, “dreaming of fireflies trapped…the wavelength of pale light/ glowing from their soft bodies.”

In “Pitted” and “Making Room,” she is morphing, expanding; “Her ribs are cracking wide against/ the walls of the tiny house.” The pregnant Eve no longer fits the tiny house, so she leaves, “takes a man with hairy legs and oaky/ breath home from the bar” in the poem “Open All Night.” Eve isn’t aware of what not to do; she is naïve and fallible, as her legend dictates, but unlike the dire repercussions in the original myth, this doesn’t matter, because “Adam forgives her.”

 The serpent appears in “Nesting” as the rope in a tire swing, but Eve pays it no mind and “snaps her fingers/ to a song/ she learned/ from the men/ who camp across/ the river.” Her motherly instincts take effect in “Passing Down Knowledge” as she surmises what she will teach her child (“[h]ow to hold the moon in a bucket of water/ [h]ow to speak to strangers in questions only/”); she plans what to do after the birth, how she will make the child clean and “wash as much sin from its skin—the curdled filth/ that smells like her.” At this point, we see that Eve is not so naïve; she has learned somewhere along the way that she is bad. Merchant expertly portrays here the primordial and fallible Eve that lives in every woman’s psyche.

Hope and promise is greatest when the child is born in “The Promise of a New Day”; Eve knows that this day will “be the only perfect one.” It is the demise of her ripened body (“Purple-streaked skin droops over her belly,/ a plum wilting) that sets the tone of disillusionment; life will be tainted from here on out for her, her child, and Adam. But she faces it like a seasoned woman, the intuitive sorceress who knows what she must do, what she will do to reclaim herself: paint “her body with clay” and “stand under the ripe moon.”

By reinventing myth, we can better understand it, make it our own. I believe Megan Merchant wholly succeeds in doing this with her new chapbook.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Circe’s Cabin (from Totem Beasts)

Circe’s Cabin
The duke and I stumbled upon her cottage in the woods with the front door open. We went in, delighted by the cozy living quarters decorated with colorful textiles and marble statues, Buddha stones, shrines of goddesses, stained glass, and damask curtains. We settled on a duvet on the floor and the duke, with his multi-colored eyes and ebony hair, read from Sappho's lost book of poems. The poems were printed on papyrus and turned to dust in his hands, but with every new page we marveled at the secret words until the sun set and the lights began to flicker across the bay.

Afterward, we went out to the deck; half of it was falling into the water, its wood curved like a cascading wave. There were others now, figured on neighboring decks, gossiping, raising their glasses, seemingly content as the water lapped at the banks. Inside, more people had arrived and sat on the couch with drinks in their hands. Dogs were chasing each other around the fireplace. Lovers were eating muffins in the breakfast nook dropping crumbs on the floor. Then she arrived. She was not ageless. She was not beautiful. She was surprised to see us all there, taking advantage of her lair. I told her I would make it right. I frantically went about collecting the dust, hair, and shards of glass in my hands. What was she to do now? The place was a sty and the lord and his mistress were renting it for a getaway. I looked after the duke but he had disappeared. I told the others to get out. A man fell from the roof and broke his neck. Another was eating an orchid on the front porch.

When I last saw the duke, he was arm in arm with the crone as she lead him into her bedroom and then locked the door. Not an hour later, she released him to the paddock where he rummaged for scraps, squealing and snorting his way through the sounder of swine.

They arrived and I had the place spotless and vacant, save the crone who hummed softly as she braided her hair in her chamber. The man with the broken neck had been airlifted to the nearest hospital. The lights across the bay had gone out. The pigs had stuffed themselves silly. I opened the door and they were young and dark: the lord wore an oversized baseball cap and a medallion, the mistress, sweatpants with LOVE printed across her ass. They talked to each other as if I didn’t matter, commenting on the place, delighted to be there, and alone.