Lynn C. Fraser
A review of
Dancing, with Mirrors
by George Amabile
The Porcupine’s Quill
This collection of eleven cantos is a memoir in verse that follows a rough chronological order where George Amabile shares his life through a lyrical narrative. The opening poem “Tangents & Vectors” uses vivid weather and sea images to create a link between the parts. I can see the cars/drivers thrusting forward bent on reaching their destination regardless of the weather, bent on reaching an edifice where the work they do creates nothing more then an abundance of fish eggs most of which will have little or no effect on the condition of man or the world.
Dawn is a salmon run
of tail lights. Exhaust
curdled by the arctic (11)
smeared across the windshield
like a bird’s eyelid
changes the carbon steel lights (11)
The law is allthat’s left of goodintentions.
We pass it copiously like roe. (12)
This poem connects the mundane travel to and from work daily with thoughts on environmental, sociological and biologically innate behaviour before stringing together life’s events that lead into the more autobiographical Cantos that follow.
“Burnt Wings” begins with a barbecue then leaps into the defining moments of childhood through a first person tour. “…, flying / into the great white sun” (17). These leaps show the exploration of a young boy’s sense of invincibility. Amabile then pushes that invincibility into a loss of that sense, which is clearly apparent with the illness and its dramatic result: “The priest made a rare house call” (17) . . . While “feeling my thighs melt from their bones.” (18). He shows the slow recovery from the illness and childhood illusions, before moving on to the poems only stanza written in third person. Amabile sharply displays the child’s loss of kinship and trust with his father.
The father cannot fathom
how he has changed
from partner, mentor, friend
to a predator that stalks the boy in his dreams. (21)
The following section returns to the opening adult when the protagonist declares “I am a part of the morning, / the part that watches while it burns.” (22)
Amabile portrays the pain and confusion created when a memory is thrust to the forefront of perception in “What We Take with Us, Going Away”. A trip through Europe where the sections are tied to family history past and present, where what went before nearly repeated itself. Where, a collision with a cyclist throws Amabile back into the accident that killed his brother.
I knelt, still
shouting, trying to shake him
awake, then rocked him senseless in my lap.
I kneel now, in broken glass,
in the headlights of stopped traffic, feeling
his cold neck for a pulse, confused
by the scentof wine
in the air, and my breathexplodes
when I understand,he’s dead
drunk, and snoring. (43)
Throughout this collection the reader is invited to share in the very personal ethos of one man, George Amabile, through his elegant and extraordinary verse.
‘ What muscular lyricism! Amabile is a fearless singer who finds the right note for every human emotion.’
This review first appeared in FreeFall XXII Number 3.