My debut full-length collection of poems, Cleavemark, has just been released from BOAAT Press. I am so grateful to everyone at BOAAT, especially Shane McCrae, who made the selection. In large part, Cleavemark is a lament for my grandmother, who was killed by a drunk semi-truck driver when I was eleven. It’s a lament through the architecture of houses. It’s also an investigation into the rich, Southern landscape, which can swallow you whole. The book is set primarily at three houses: my maternal grandparents, my great aunt’s, and my parents house–all surrounded in some part, by the Georgia woods. I tried to write an intrusion of the domestic into the wild. To write out the wilderness’s advance on houses. Not surprisingly, I found an expulsion of my best defenses. The cover photos are tiny Polaroids, taken by my own mother at my grandparents house in the early sixties. On the back of the original of the lower image, my mother wrote “Mother working.” I asked her why she’d taken the upper image. Polaroids were hardly standard for landscapes. I told her I’d always found those pines so haunting. “Me too,” she said. “That’s why I took the picture.” The title text is also hers.
When the book was released, I returned to Clarkston, Georgia, where my Nan & Pop lived. I hadn’t been there in twenty years. It was as surreal as I’d imagined.
The strangest things were arresting–the curbs were the same chunky, cut granite. It smelled the same–like roof timbers, pavement, soil, and oaks. Their pin oak is still standing. The street was empty except for me and my husband. I think I told him I felt like I was dead, but not in a bad way.
It’s a good thing things outlast us. It’s good to be able to go back.