Justice

Caroline Finkelstein, Author Carnegie-Mellon University Press $12.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-88748-297-7
The justice sought in Finkelstein's third book is an intimate matter: two persons once colluded joyfully ""to become the absolute same body"" even while ""the idea of separate selves/ appeared singularly beautiful"" (""Confused Figure""). Now the poet tries the questions between them in pleadings fashioned from rich puns and radiant images. ""Deposition"" testifies to the ""divided thinking"" that both plagues and exhilarates many of the poems in this short, brilliant collection. Evidence accumulates in one ""Brief"" and another--and in ""An Opinion,"" ""Inquiry,"" ""Argument,"" ""The Penalty"" and ""Her Testimony."" ""Statement"" finishes on a verdict: ""I flung you hard/ from my outstretched hand."" The poems of judgment are balanced by poems of assessment (""The Collusion,"" ""A Persuasion,"" ""Perspective"" and more) that stop in mid-inquiry with an em-dash. Outside the poet's courtroom, other figures appear: Mary Cassatt (""Portrait and Prints""), the poet's parents (""At the Equinox,"" ""Fabric""), a dying friend (""Landscape,"" ""Early Winter""), the Chinese empress whose ""countrymen credit her/with the invention of the loom and reeling silk"" (""Fabric""). Unlike Finkelstein's second collection, Germany, in which judgment was unequivocal, memory was horror, and images multiplied to refine an appalling impression, Justice entertains ambivalence. If a reader may leave the sentimental abstractions of a few poems (the first ""Brief,"" ""The Difference"") disappointed, most of Justice offers lasting rewards. Its elegance and its rage finally explode into a party where guests talk ""rare-specimen-of-horticulture-talk and sparrow-gabble"" (""My Little Esperanto""). ""Sweetheart,"" the poet has us collude with her in concluding, ""the silence will be awful when we die and leave."" (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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