Book of Dog

Cleopatra Mathis, Author
Cleopatra Mathis. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-936747-47-4
Ebook - 64 pages - 978-1-936747-80-1
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Animals dominate this humane and serious sixth collection from Mathis (White Sea), at first in the chill forests of New England, and then in and around the sea. The title poem begins with “the wasp fallen to the wood floor,/ enough universe for the dog/ waiting while you are away.” That dog is dying, in “a long winter with unforgiving winds,” and Mathis responds with a moving 10-part sequence about warmth, cold, commitment, and loyalty. The poet also tries to feed “my finches in their sullen coats of dun and ash,/ fluffed feathers holding off the cold,” and pays homage to “Salt Water Ducks,” who can dive in a storm, though not all will survive, “bodies down for improbable minutes/ before coming back up.” Emblems of perseverance, cause for affection, Mathis’s mammals, birds, and even a “Western Conifer Seed Bug” also give her analogies for human conduct—mourning, generosity, reluctance. Mathis’s way of weaving together long sentences with stark fragments at times recalls Louise Glück. At other times Mathis simply joins the body of verse and literary prose about dogs and their humans. Mathis’s pages show heart, observation, and thought; they also show a loneliness, and a sense of lost human connections assuaged by instinct, by “her own animal self.” (Jan.)
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