“I make and remake myself,” the poet writes in “No Stork,” the collection’s opening poem. The whole of the book is similarly smart, composed of economic lines that contain more than seems possible, given their deceptive simplicity and plain diction. Terris reminds us that poetry need not be arch and “high brow,” down and dirty (edgy, rough, street-wise), or impossibly inventive (structurally or syntactically over-ambitious) to be artful (“If I / told you what I know, you’d question / my solutions”).
Terris has a lovely ear, as evidenced in “Another Blue House”:
Place of casual clutter –
High bed with convolvulus
Blooming beyond leaded glass.
A personal touch or a soft one.
Here every ghost needs an escort
And permission to leave.
She exhibits an admirable sense of control and restraint, even as she expresses a great feeling of yearning and even anxiety:
Some days all choices are the wrong ones.
With this key, I would spring the lock.
The gaudy shoes may carry you to Kansas or to Oz,
but what unlocks more doors: a typewriter or a key?
And she displays philosophical tendencies that move us beyond narrow personal stories:
In the sky, for the blue beyond blue,
In the word, look for the sense beyond the sense.
Open a shell and probe for a pearl.
Find the thought in the seed of the thought.
In the sand, dig until water pools up.
In the world, think backstory, understory.
A poem in the final pages of the collection is titled, “In Our Universe These Things I Know Are True.” Here’s what I know to be true: Terris is a gifted poem and this is a lovely book.