Friday, October 23, 2015

Review by Martin Abramson
By Patty Dickson Pieczka
The Bitter Oleander Press 2013 Fayettville, NY
$16.00, 81 pp, Paper

Reprinted from Book/Mark, Summer 2015

                It’s rare for a weary reviewer to be sent a book with a delight on almost every page and Painting the egret’s echo delights me no end. Mrs. Pieczka (pronounced PYECH-ka) writes in free verse stanzas sans rhyme, but with every other poetic device. Indeed, a good many of her poems are about words and writing itself. From “The Lineage of Ink”:

                          Ink lurks in the blood,
                        learning secrets.
                        Hieroglyphs and calligraphy
                                wind their cursive tongues
                        to feed on goat hide,
                                clay or papyrus scrolls,
to drink the phrases
                        that nourish a ravenous pen.
In “A Winter Poem”                                       
                        Soup stock boils in the kitchen
                        this snow-laced afternoon.

                        The poem begins with a page of steam.
                        My fingers squeak across its window…
In Polish, sounds
                        purl like water in tiny
                        rivulets, a diphthong drops
                        from the mourning dove’s beak,
                        wings opening to the sun.

Nature imagery is everywhere:

                        Tonight I become the forest
                        and weave my hair into vines…


                        This morning a ram’s skull
                        Rose in the east…

                        lifts a finch’s feather
                        and becomes weightless,
                        floats to the crown
                        of a hickory and finds
                        that her hollow bones
                        can whistle like flutes.
And finds:
                                …a world beneath soil
among constellations             
of bulbs, potatoes,
a sky of onions.

The heat of “A Jalapeno” inspires an image of “a prairie surviving/ only when its grasses are grazed/ by fire that chews through purple/ mallow and lemon mint…”

                        Leaves scattering through
                        the tunnel of trees
                        ripple grass with their

In “Rose Madder” the poet lists dyes for her boiling vat: “bloodroot/and larkspur…goldenrod…oak galls…woad…saffron near the foot of the ginko…sumac and indigo…”

Many poems describe a lover:

                        Your dream spills out
                        and trails fireflies
                        along a curve of evening
                        winding toward night.

From “Drinking the Moon”: “She traces the hollow/ of his throat, as though/ her fingertips/ might discern the truth/ in his words.”

In “Tradewinds”, at a tropical wedding where “The ocean plays a calypso/ of wave-splash and clicking shells…”

                          Saronged guests wing an ivory
                          whirlwind of rice that clings to him

                          in a flash of glinting sun. In the
                          wedding photos, he is already gone.

After a breakup in “Finale”

                          I no longer wore the negligee woven
                          from sultry wisps of his breath. It hung,

                          dissolving in the closet
                          with the bones of our first touch.

From the woman who receives Van Gogh’s ear:

                        What emptiness feeds
                        your martyred hunger
                        to offer me

                        this fleshy curl
                        of bass clef that drips
                        its lowest notes in blood…

Some poems have medical themes as in ”The Diagnosis” which “slides/ from my doctor’s pen,/   an inky snake…” follows through her daily routines and “winds around me…” at night.  “A Curvature of Bone” sees the spine as a “rock strewn path” “partially covered with sand…and threaded together/ with tenuous ligaments”.
“Voices of Touch” is a moving evocation of Helen Keller’s sensory world.
“Rocky Bluff” brings déjà vu to a familiar valley before history where “…I will return…/when I am       wearing/ different bones.”
“Pieces of Winter” etches a world where wind plays icicles “like a xylophone” and

                                    As we walk the frozen
                                    shoreline, snow memorizes
                                    the shapes of our boots
                                    our immortality…
I hope it’s not sexist to observe that these poems have the delicacy and sensitivity that clearly identify them as a woman’s handiwork. And this is by no means to dismiss them as anything less than superbly crafted literary emanations. As a man, I have often wondered about the workings of the female mind, and I’m grateful to admit that reading Mrs. Pieczka’s oeuvre may be as close as I can get to its mysteries.     

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