cover image Gates & Fields

Gates & Fields

Jennifer Firestone. Belladonna, $15 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-9885399-6-9

Firestone (Swimming Pool) renders a series of deeply perceptive and formally sharp lyric sequences into an extended elegy. The epigraph, “The Carriage held but just Ourselves—,” from Emily Dickinson’s famous “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” points toward the book’s subject matter as well as Firestone’s aesthetic affinity with Dickinson’s spare potency and abiding interest in spatial relationships as a way to consider death, grief, and remembrance. A cemetery establishes the mise-en-scène, and the geography and architecture of interment shape the book. Firestone represents rites of mourning in the “language on the stone” and the invitation to “Bring thy pebble or thy flowers or thy inscription.” But throughout, the mourner as an individual subject remains at the margins. Instead, mourning and witness are mostly enacted by the external world, as in “The field sings/ Blanket of verse,” “The sky turned pages and the language rained,” and “The long tree’s bristle/ A hermetic cry.” Such lines read more as projections of a sentient landscape than a speaker’s emotional state. Similarly, Firestone describes “The sky, the field startlingly aware” as “The wind suns itself upon the wheat.” By animating the world in this way, Firestone captures an elemental sense of human smallness: “To this we all shall rise To this we have just risen.” (May)