Pamela Mordecai begins the issue with two poems, “Sliced Thin” and “Sepia, 1939,” the latter taking a look at her parents’ wedding photograph, turned sepia with age. The poem begins with the focus on her mother and her need “[...] to be a worthwhile wife, deserving of / my light-skinned father’s choice,” and ends with the newlyweds standing together: “They look so frightened, so at risk. / I’m not sure which to find more dread, Apocalypse / or my young parents on their war-torn wedding day.” Mordecai captures her mother’s thirst (both literally and metaphorically) and the fragility of the scene in the wedding photo vividly in the short amount of lines she works with.
Drawing me in with her equally bright imagery, Judith Skillman in “This Potash Dawn” summons the sunrise and then traces her way over the signs of age—old lovers, new husbands, “the crown // of grand motherhood tarnished,” aching backs—until she brings us to her father at his workbench where Skillman “watched my child-self / grow up to the lip of the wood.”
In “Half-Buried,” Karen Craigo writes of walking with her head down, ignoring rumored “grandeur in the sky” to focus instead on what lies half-hidden in the underbrush and dirt, though her found treasures never turn out to be quite what she initially imagines:
At home, I have bowls of them—Taking readers along with her on her walk, Craigo’s writing is as alive as the undergrowth she exalts in this piece.
stones shaped like stones
where once someone saw
a flash of something more.
Danielle Susi’s “Against the Faces of White Roses” stood out for me, not only due to her utilization of a different formatting than the other poems in this issue, but also because of the melancholy beauty of her language. She describes the properties of a quilt:
A quilt will not make youSusi’s word choice helps create the feeling of being under a quilt “against the faces of white roses,” her writing momentarily offering the same slight comforts the blanket does.
feel less solitary but mimics the weight and heat and
sweat of a body. It’s skin,
a series of piercings
you run a hand past imperfect flesh
The other four poets in this issue (Michael Robins, Tyler Mills, Mercedes Lawry, and Susan Grimm) also bring great writing to the table, all of them using strong imagery that kept me craving more. With only two issues out, Kettle Blue Review is a magazine I plan to keep my eye on.