April Elegy, by Jane Downs

April Elegy, by Jane Downs


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What is the recipe for alchemical transformation that creates from searing family wounds a work of art? In this collection, Jane Downs may have found it, alternating spare free verse poems with knife-edge prose corollaries:


Mother smokes L&Ms
her chin whiskery,
her teeth long and yellow.


She disdains dental hygiene. I think
her disregard for body speaks
of her regard for Soul.


She cocks her head,
turns her violet eyes
toward me.


Blindness has disrobed them.
On the table, her hearing aids
like extracted teeth in a little box.




I got the call from my sister-in-law. She said, “What I’m
going to tell you isn’t good.” My son played with a He-Man
action figure by my feet. The phone cord was short and tight.
I couldn’t leave the room. My hands shook. I whispered
into the receiver.