City where Marley sang, Jah would never give the power to a baldheadAnd here's the opening from "The Shore":
while the baldheads reigned, where my parents chanted
down Babylon -- Fire! Burn! Jah! Rastafari! Selassie I! --
where they paid weekly dues, saving for our passages back to Africa,
while in their beds my grandparents slept fitfully, dreaming of America.
Then, you turned from me in failing light,It is snowing as I re-read those lines, and the rest of the poem grows the way that lines of frost do on a chilled window, revealing a delicate pattern of affection and vision.
trees startling into sleep,
snow rearranging itself in slender branches.
McCallum also gives us an exquisite nine-page poem "From the Book of Mothers," a bright lacy network of short fragments that convey the fabric of enduring love, as well as its shadows: "Daughter, is it your aging / or my own I fear most?"
There are some fascinating interviews with McCallum on YouTube, one in her role as director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell College, and another as part of Dennis Miller's "Conversations" via Mansfield University.
* * *
The second section, "Tether," pulls the losses in closely toward what we cherish most tenderly, and offers some blessings on the bleeding: "May this slipping away protect us, / may the loss of days ease the ones I love / from their anger, that sturdy chair / circled all day by its shadow, without which / a dim sea would come to level our yard, level / as in make right."
The collection won the Tupelo Press/Carzyhorse award for an outstanding first book. I shivered when I noticed that one of its back-cover blurbs was from Lia Purpura, author of King Baby, another collection that has amazed and moved me. Hello, life and love; goodbye, love and life. A new year begins.