cover image Bright Dead Things

Bright Dead Things

Ada Limón. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-57131-471-0

Limón (Sharks in the Rivers) goes into deep introspection mode in a fourth collection in which her speakers struggle with loss and alienation. As her poems move across varied geographies (New York, Kentucky, California), Limón narrates experiences in bewildering landscapes that should otherwise feel familiar. Perhaps feelings of alienation result from intersections of identity; perhaps they are the cost of memory, a theme woven through each of the collection’s four sections. Memory inhibits Limón’s speakers’ acclimation to change: “You’re the muscle/ I cut from the bone and still the bone remembers.” Alienated, she returns to places and memories that are not familiar. “Bellow” exemplifies a palpable grief over feelings of loss and lost-ness. In it, Limón’s ungendered speaker, estranged from any surroundings, is rendered unable to communicate feelings of loss. Using a litany of dark imagery, Limón’s speaker maps where language fails, ending the poem with the insinuation of an undefinable, haunting sound, as if the speaker is a wandering phantom. In “Home Fires,” the poet wonders, “How could I have imagined this? Mortal me,/ brutal disaster born out of so much greed.” Recurring instances of anxiety about mortality in Limón’s poems complicate experiences so richly written and felt. [em](Sept.) [/em]