Hornets, locusts, bees, trees, the heart: recurring images bring us into the river, the river we ride inside us in Paula Bohince’s The Children. Bohince spares children no respite due to young age in “Pussy Willow”:
Faint as flame-in-wind,
I was born, cupped inside a fist
and carried everywhere,
even to the formidable river . . .
We are immersed in the throbbing hardness of life from birth. Yet, as our hearts ache with the bruised wine of it, we are in love with life, knowing in our gut it is an unreachable other: “virus in my heart. Branches / salted with buds, soft- / eyed on a sill.” We are in the midst of the humming, invisible difficulty always. In “The Peacock,” the young son whose father had “tired of his wife, of them” still sees his father:
His black hair with sunlight on it.
Something to recall as beautiful, in the future. As the sewer was
in summer. Little childhood river.
Bohince’s images are constructed of a series of solitary metaphors waving like the tentacles of sea anemones in the ambience of each poem, as in “The Children.” “If the wind had been less gutsy”—the wind, that big thing we confront—and “those dirty pacifiers we suck”: hope, expectation, longing, yearning. Deciphering how the series of metaphors connects throughout a poem stretches vision to experience life’s dark glitter, often by way of Biblical allusions used in a non-dogmatic, Flannery O’Connor-type excavation of being. This excavation is so elusive that only the accumulation of sparse, disconnected words spread over several stanzas evokes the haunting shadow, as in “Mechanical Horse with Girl and Bees,” with the words “Gabriel’s, horse, Easter chocolate, uplifted hooves, spring coat, crowning, violently so.” The elusiveness of the tangle of being alive grips us, the words so well-placed as to be seamless between a natural expression and the internal apocalyptic horse we ride, revealing that we are dark creatures electrified by the unknown. And, in “Spring”: “Snow has melted from bark and pooled. With nowhere to turn, / making this place so fertile.” The trapped pressure of living is the fertility.
Embedded in the series of metaphors as we make meaning out of Bohince’s loose nets are the switches in the poems’ directions—clean, slick, workable as in “Owl in Retrograde,” going from the anthropomorphic metaphor of an owl’s survival and its choices to a married couple to an “us”:
Both of us
the soft column of silence
between us meaning, You’ve made me a home. Where self-
loathing used to reside, it has been
banished, the roof of us enameled and moon-
struck as a compass.
Who are the children? “We” are the children, at birth, at death, and as humanity. We are struck down from the beginning by the glittering darkness of the world. We are the “children, scowling and strange, / the fruit of the hived tree, / who point.” Metaphor itself is how we deal with the river sweeping us along: “A proxy pain / Stands for the larger intangible.” And, then, stepping outside of metaphor: “that if I looked long enough, / with enough reverence . . .” No metaphor—just clarity . . . our pureness . . . and ultimately, our childness.