Silent Treatment : Poems by Lisa Lewis
Reviewed by Allison Titus, Library Specialist I
Lisa Lewis' poems are sweeping things that read like short stories. They remind me of Aimee Bender's short fiction: composed with a carefully crafted simplicity; conversational with lyric tendencies; hinged not on sharp fragments but instead on sort of inverted moments: the language is manipulated to surprise but always remains conversational in tone. There is a simplicity within these poems—sometimes conjured by a series of parallel sentences and the repetition of totemic words—but the poems aren’t simple. They move ever outward in gathering arcs to relate a progression of events or objects or ephemera. Ideas and experiences are linked one after the other to create a vast container of images, yet the poems manage to feel instinctual in these accumulations. These are natural, complicated meanderings that trace a pattern to the core. Lewis’ melancholy is a plainspoken, energetic melancholy, and she offers devastating observations that feel right on—as absolute as waking, where ordinary truths turn monumental but are not contrived-profound.
From "Animal Bodies":
I knew how animals play/ in the rivers and the locked rooms after we've fallen asleep./ I knew dark moved to light and light moved to dark, I wanted/ to try talking about it, what if I said, here are my hands, bird, where are your claws?
From "The Lamed Mare":
But the past doesn't die. Doesn't/even fade, not much, for all the paper/stapled over memory, like those fly-specked/bulletins hung in every barn, phone numbers/of blacksmiths, Labrador puppies for sale.
It rained/last year, it rained all year, I believed/my sorrow would never end, but it slipped/ through itself like a knotted thread. Too much river is no worse than too little./it's just that I'd thought, as anyone would,/that drowning was the way to die, not/sighing like a spark struck into thin air./
From "The Hummingbird":
It thought the light/meant the wind should be closer, the tree limbs'/tips, the evening sky, whatever comforts a bird/flies home to…Hummingbirds never stop flying, their thready legs/won't brace them up, or maybe their feet won't lock/around grass blades, their wings' pulse treading /each side of their hearts. I could hardly imagine/a bird so small; I could hardly imagine a life/so hard no rest belongs there./
There is remarkable inclusiveness to Lewis' speculation—room enough for her to try out multitudes and variations with "or maybes" –and still to keep us by her side, guessing and hoping to know and relieved at certain moments when something fundamental gets stated. Lewis allows us to witness her thoughts unwinding to some place solid even when that includes hesitation. The poems in Silent Treatment offer no sentimentality, no false gestures.