cover image River House

River House

Sally Keith. Milkweed (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-465-9

In this heartbreaking and robust poetry collection, Keith (The Fact of the Matter) explores the complexity of the mind in the midst of grief. The work consists of 63 untitled, numbered poems, reflecting the age of Keith's mother when she died. Keith's poems intertwine Jacques Lecoq's concept of the neutral mask with the poet's efforts to relearn how to behave, react, and move the body after loss—to be "ductile, as in, to be flexible, to be able to be deformed." Every observation realigns itself to the permeating experience of loss and the determined preservation of memory. Keith's poems never exceed a page and are built primarily of couplets and tercets; they possess a quiet music, and their intricate scatters of thought bear witness to the intimate struggles of mourning. "You erase the voice from the answering machine./ You move the clothes from the floor or tossed on a chair.// You hope to talk in different ways./ You drive, you eat, you move." Keith skirts the edges of thought, wandering from literature to the river house where her family spent time, a space that holds the strong presence of her mother. "That the river does nothing but move makes sense to me," Keith reflects, "yet, I cannot help but crave conclusion." (May)