July 10, 2009

Review by Alexa Mergen

by Jim Natal

Red Hen Press
P.O. Box 3537
Granada Hills, CA 91394
ISBN: 978-1-59709-136-7
2009, 101 pp., $18.95

In 101 pages, Memory and Rain carries variety in theme, form and subject that keeps a reader returning. Motifs repeat—rain, windmills, cats, rivers, trails and roads—but placed freshly with each use so as the eye and ear recognize the words, the mind perceives infinite possibilities within the familiar.

The collection’s first poem, the extended sequence “Rain in L.A.,” takes the reader through four days of downpour that trap the poet with his recollections, thoughts and random musings. Thick with allusions, the poem reveals the poet’s delight in making something of what he’s living.

We don’t need no stinking umbrellas,
no newspapers folded into sinking
upturned boats, inky runnels of hard
luck stories streaming down faces
and the backs of necks. I refuse
to believe in the afterlife of rain,
in drowned angels or Lucifers, no bibles
crumbling like soggy matchbooks.
There is no poetry in the rain….

The next section, “Picking Fruit in the Dark,” takes the reader into the poet’s memories of rain, stories, ghosts of relationships, loss and travels. Here the poet establishes himself as an honest witness. In “Filter,” he describes how the whole world changes in a moment with an insight provided by a slipped sleeve and the sight of a stranger’s wrist.

Eucalyptus trees instantly changed their scent.
Shaggy bundles of drooping leaves
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