February 5, 2009

Review by Carole Borges

by Claire Keyes

Mayapple Press
408 N. Lincoln Street
Bay City, MI 48708
ISBN: 978-0932412-690
2008, 72 pp., $14.95

In her first volume of poetry, Claire Keyes steps onto the literary stage with a maturity and mastery of craft that reflects an educated passion for words and the possession of a perception that fully and courageously embraces both the light and dark side of our human psyche.

Her childhood poems celebrate the details of American life: the drunken uncles, the clatter of dishes, the sound of a piano tinkling across a lawn, and the smell of fresh washed clothes. Childhood games reflect the seriousness adulthood will demand.

In “Playing Cards with My Father,” Keyes writes:

…We were green as spring clover, as shoots
of March grass, green and thirsty
for an afternoon with him at the card table, other kids
reduced to skating or cracked sidewalks, shooting hoops,
playing Double-Dutchies, their chants and rope-slapping
mere child’s play. Another hand another.
Don’t skunk me, Pop. My mother watches from the kitchen.
Her game is playing house. With my flair
for the father-tongue, its rules and syntax, I know
winning is better than losing.
If you don’t have that straight, pretend.
He takes one card, tucks it into his hand, lifts his eyes.
I’ll raise you, he says.

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