August 10, 2009

Review by Angela Micheli Otwell

by Kim Calder

Writ Large Press
Los Angeles, California
ISBN 978-0-9814836-1-0
2008, 129 pp., $15.00

Kim Calder’s poems in Who’s to Say What’s Home are largely first-person narratives about living in the desert and pursuing mirages, specifically the promise that alcohol might sate every thirst. In the opening poem, “sunstroke,” a child wanders in the dust and envies the lifeless clay shards that are at home there:

. . . this is where I want to be,
face down beside a cactus in in the wind
the sand whipping over my ears,
the snakes moving past me in half-darkness.

In addition to the desert and sand being important motifs, fire is important as well. In “burn without screaming,” a monk sets himself on fire while another man reduces the narrator to “a pile of ash in the corner.” In “hold it tight,” however, fire is a purifying force, even though it burns.

Perhaps the purification – by alcohol, by fire, by pain – is supposed to make everything worthwhile, but these poems do not offer much in the way of hope. The poem “dear mr. bukowski.” asks Charles Bukowski, of all people, when things will get better, and in “burn without screaming,” the narrator indicates that if she fell to her knees to pray, she would spew bile “like the man in the next building vomiting / on his knees in front of the toilet.”

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