cover image Every Hard Sweetness

Every Hard Sweetness

Sheila Carter-Jones. BOA, $19 trade paper (134p) ISBN 978-1-960145-12-3

Carter-Jones (Three Birds Deep) gathers the shards of devastation and reconstructs the soul in this trenchant and mellifluous collection. She studies the memory of her father’s unwarranted incarceration (part of the “gone-dead” practice of labeling Black men as dangerous only to incarcerate them) and the fortitude and vigilance required of an adolescence spent coping with trauma. Using photographs, erasure, epistolary form, and refrain, Carter-Jones demands witness, reflecting the persistent reoccurrence of hate and silencing: “They came for him./ The man who has the ability to create his/ own image. They came for him. To/ steal his too big voice that gathers./ Demands.” The specter of white supremacist violence is made tangible in a poem harnessing rhyme and coruscating vision: “Good men are gone-dead before the rising sun/ begins its fierce ascent upward to burning noon;/ shine light, shine black on inhumane deeds done.” Her mother’s voice conveys warning: “Do not, my mother said, read/ the world only through eyes of/ the heart./ Do not be kind without/ thinking eyes, my mother said,/ to save me from going blind.” She later evokes the sensation of unburdening oneself “as if stones I’ve carried from the creek are falling out of me.” Illuminating the poorly veiled racism and violence of past and present with masterful storytelling and exquisite resolve, this is a wonder. (Apr.)