cover image The Trees Witness Everything

The Trees Witness Everything

Victoria Chang. Copper Canyon, $17 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-55659-632-2

The elegant and reflective fourth collection from Chang (Obit) presents a moving elegy for both her deceased mother and the dying Earth, using form to capture the fleeting nature of life. Many of these poems are written as Japanese wakas-short, syllabic-based poems that give shape to a stark image or idea. They revolve around elements of the natural world-flora and fauna-often with spiritual connotations suggesting that nonhuman animals are just a hair's breadth from the divine: "I've watched so many spiders/ lift one last leg toward God." In moments like these, the poems seem like fragments of enlightenment collectively working toward a revelation. A longer poem titled "Marfa, Texas" explores the scenery and inhabitants of the city, with a focus on human-animal connections: "My day/ was this horse... This horse is also all the hours/ of my life that are unlived." The collection ends with a long poem titled "Love Letters," an ode to resilience in the face of profound loss, and the significant, necessary role that grief plays in life: "We are made of sorrow./ It threads through us and/ holds our organs together." For those who are grieving and those who have grieved, Chang offers beautiful insights, and a path toward healing. (Apr.)