I swear to you: I was holding my breath during my entire first reading of "Ceremony for the Choking Ghost."
As each perfect & honest poem tumbled off the page, I grew so afraid that I would do something wrong -- take the wrong breath, look up the wrong moment, blink once too often -- and ruin this book's perfect run of poetry. Please know the worry was completely unnecessary; from top to tail, poet Karen Finneyfrock is simply unstoppable.
Let me pull just some of the amazing lines from the poems found in the debut collection of poetry:
From the poem "What Lot's Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn't A Pillar of Salt)": "Do you remember when we met / in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless / and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing / you, when we were young and blushed with youth / like bruised fruit. Did we care then / what our neighbors / did in the dark?"
From "The Rube Goldberg Machine": "Teenagers make out in forgotten places: parking lots past closing time, / city parks after dark. We went to my basement, my parents footsteps / whispering over the ceiling like gossip."
From "The Birthday Party: "The year Beth was in the hospital, / Wayne didn't want Molly to turn three / listening to her mother's heart machine thump / like a goldfish with no bowl, so we took her to the / Baltimore aquarium. I spent the day brightening / my eyes when Molly looked at me." And later from the same poem, "On Molly's third birthday, I prayed for a car accident / on the highway, a gang shooting that missed the chest. / Heart transplants are always a result of tragedy , old / and satisfied hearts won't work."
From "How My Family Grieved": "We sandpapered down to the meaning of necessary things. / Among the condolence cards the jack-potted through / the mail slot daily was this one. / 'I was so sorry to hear about Beth. I was also / surprised to find out that Karen isn't married yet.'"
I could honestly keep going. The book is filled with this sort of stunning gems, lines and images that twirl your around your heart, gently tugging on its strings, waking you up and making your head spin at the same time. Funny, and heartbreaking, and beautiful, and true. The stories they tell are complex & profoundly human: grief over the death of a sister, lust over a ex-lover, confusion over the choices our country & its citizens sometimes make and of course, joy at the simplest & most honest things.
I highly recommend this stunning collection, and am already eagerly awaiting to read what comes next from this fresh and talented poet.