Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 30, 2014)
Review by: g emil reutter
Intimate relationships, growing old, the independence of her parents at 80 in weathering a storm for fear of being placed in assisted living. How nice the word hospice sounds in the language when actually a word for no hope of giving up of dying. Her father’s love of the track although a loneliness hovered over him. Becker has developed a collection of poems that offer a realistic view of life, living and dying in a compassionate voice that is calming as you page through the poems in Tiger Heron. Becker accomplishes this with startling images, such as these from the poem Hospice:
I wanted to believe in it, the word
softer than hospital but still not home—
like any other frame house on the street,
it had a lawn, a door, a bell—
inside, our friend lay, a view
of the garden from her bed. But no lift
to raise her from the bed. A sword,
the sun plunged across the cotton blankets.
Becker describes the loss of hope surrounded by life, a view of the garden, but no lift to raise her as the sun, a life force, plunged across the cotton blankets like a sword.
She tells us in Montefiore Cemetery:
Although the dying don’t want to talk much,
the dead have all the time in the world.
However, a vast difference has replaced
our old relations. Emporium of headstones!
Since when do you leave old antipathies
Mid-sentence? Choose silence over bickering?
Becker remembers those who are no longer with her, Bubbe, her father bristling. At the end of the poem she leaves us:
Silence, Montefiore nods, is the restraint of wisdom.
No tongue speaks as much ill as one’s own.
Not all is gloomy here in Tiger Heron as the first two stanzas of Holiday reveal:
We slept and woke to the sound of rhythmic surf.
Across the room, my friend lay with her book;
I listened to the spacious hour, its humane breath
on the room, grown large with distant water.
In that monastic calm we took ourselves
Lightly, rose and ate, walked the half moon
Beach and indulged our ankles with bracelets
Of kelp. Underwater, the day kept flut-
Robin Becker writes of the daily challenges of midlife and those at the end of life with a sobering realism that always flickers with hope, obtainable or not.
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– g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/