by Michelle Chan Brown
6 x 9,” 80 pgs, perfect bound
Kobe Press – ISBN:978-1-888553-52-9
Review by: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
Double Agent by Michelle Chan Brown is a book filled with double meanings. Many of the poems have a slight narrative, a thin thread, woven through its pages of poems.
“Shipwreck’s” metaphors are filled with luscious sounds and images, such as: We wept soundless as sand; our heartbeats thrilled, lazy as laps; Breezes licked our faces flat; Distance gifted the world a shimmer; and Skylights cracked and loaned us stars.
“The Retirement Home for Nuns” written in couplets moves the reader quickly through a poem where the speaker is visiting a Sister/Nun at a nursing home with many surprising twists and turns, starting with an opening couplet that describes each room: A sink in every room and on the wall, / the bare white outlines of the crucifix, spindly. The poem quickly turns to the speaker and lover punning on Shakespeare’s famous Get thee to a nunnery, and replacing it with Get thee between my thighs, or I’ll take the company of a handsomer beast. There’s a cat stalking ghost, a seeing-eye portrait (Mary) and a permanent lipstick print on the chalice. The poem winds its way to an exchange of words between the speaker and a nun, and fittingly enough the poem concludes with The end is near, I said, to break the ice.
There are four Autobiographies with Roman numbering; “Dear Bluebeard, Dear Love”; “A Newlywed’s Guide to Hunting”; “Honeymoon in Leningrad”; “Say “Please” Before You Take My Hand”; etc., which describe the poet’s views about self, love, life, family, place, and husband. Some are straightforward, some ironic, some catch you off guard and some have echoes of the speaker’s mother surfacing here and there: Marriage is hard, says my mother, my occasional shopping partner. Every morning, you wake up and it’s there, that head on the pillow, waiting to hate you. The mother’s role as victim or “sage” is always delivered with dry humor that undercuts and allows the reader not to take life too seriously. One of mother’s cope mechanisms for dealing with problems is to Throw the whole mess into the machine, pour a cocktail, pull the lever.
There is a lot to absorb, digest, and chuckle at here. Overall, the seriousness of every situation lends itself to double meanings by a Double Agent poet, who works with and against the grain of love and life with honesty and irony.
You can read the poetry of Michelle Chan Brown in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/10AW/MBrown.html
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is the Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review.