cover image How the End Begins

How the End Begins

Cynthia Cruz. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1935536673

In her fourth collection, Cruz (Wunderkammer) continues to deliver surprises with lyric poems that are deceptively sparse yet dense with texture and meaning. Beyond the white space of the page, the poems are full of white objects and allusions to whiteness, whiteout, and the concepts of rebirth and purity. The colorlessness is shattered, though, by the violently gorgeous images that suffuse her series of letters to Emily Dickinson or are found in "Dark Liturgy," in which the reader is invited to "Enter the spectacular:/ Diaphanous and tremendousing." In the stunning "Fatigue Empire," one encounters "The warden of the underworld/ In her plastic, pink// wheelchair/ serving silver trays of/ Shit and death and black/ Gelatinous." Like the fairy tales to which Cruz often alludes, these poems are enchanting, hypnotic, and shadowy in an unsettlingly intimate and familiar way. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is a meditation on mortality that avoids morbidity, a set of instructions for how to destroy in order to allow for transformation or renewal. But as Cruz makes brutally clear in her series of "Birthday Ceremony" poems, her speakers are not always certain that transformation will be to their benefit: "What ruined me once/ Will ruin me always." (Mar.)