Judith Pond is a very serious poet with a dark sense of humour. A Shape of Breath isn't Sylvia with her head in the stove but it is a scathing indictment of living with compromise.
These harsh poems have a pure beauty to them — Pond is as clear as she is fearless.
This collection is divided into several distinct sections with singular themes. "As For Me", the second segment of this rewarding book, is a devastating series of call-and-response poems, all about the cold harsh drudgery of a loveless union.
Tuesday Evening, March 5
I've fought it out with myself and won at last. We're going to adopt
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised
when I find my abstemious husband, who pretends
to be dreaming
beside me each night, has gone to another
and begun a new life, (Who wouldn't, cursed
with a wife who is barely there and furthermore
He, on the other hand is stunned
when God claims the woman and I
In another section of the book entitled "Coyote Suite", Pond conjures herself covered in fur, it's a clever transformation and an illuminating vehicle for further ruminations on relationships, human weakness and human nature.
Myth: Coyotes Have No Conscience
You think you believe this
because of their yellow eyes
and stealthy ways, and because anyone
who sees one sees himself
as calories: Not pretty
but at least it satisfies.
Like all myths, however, this one, while
easy, is inaccurate. There's a difference,
between no conscience
and no regrets.
Although I'm convinced that the poems I'm showing you stand on their own - in the context of the narrative of each section of this collection, these poems are stirling stuff. Each chapter of A Shape of Breath reveals another layer of hidden depth.
There's all kinds of sorrow in A Shape of Breath but there is also optimistic hope in a better future, a belief in something pure enough to be called love.
It is the evening of the day before
spring. Bare and gleaming,
you race through the darkening
rooms, your clear laughter
Outside the young light
We are playing the game
of me catching you, though you are moving
far too fast for me ever
to win. One by one the stars
Here are your small clothes, discarded
on the long-ago floor of an innocent
kitchen. I raise them
to my face and breathe you in, remembering this
night as though
our game were just a dream, as though already
it were an echo, and you
Judith Pond is the author of three previous books of poetry - An Early Day, Dance of Death and Lovers and Other Monsters.