Between Twilight
Connie Post
NYQ Books

Reviewer: Ann Wehrman

In her new collection, Between Twilight, Connie Post explores memories and her present world, searching for healing, justice, and understanding. Post’s sensitive, often delicate poetry is grounded in honest, ruthless self-exploration; bottomless fear, loss, and fury tempered by her will to survive and end patterns of abuse. The speaker, never neutral, swims in a vast sea of remembered, examined suffering. Subject matter includes emotional and physical abuse affecting relationships, children, and families; love; healing; and the desire for justice. Post’s lyrical and narrative poems vary in setting and narrative, yet the collection harmonizes fluidly in style, tone, and voice. The music of these poems is rich with microtones, expressing the full range of an open heart.

Post’s polished poems excel through mastery of the language of metaphor. Pruning with self-control, holding back, Post skillfully allows each poem’s deep truth to shine. “Citadel” compares the speaker’s college English textbooks to military ammunition, inferring the written word is a weapon with which to fight for freedom from life’s assaults, and that the body survives much, retaining memories the mind sometimes loses.

This is not your body
it does not belong to you
it is not the one
that left the sallow rooms of home
circa 1980
never to return

this is the body
that knows the sound of a belt
removed before a beating

The reader can hear this image, a snake’s sibilant hiss. Yet the poem moves to speak of the wisdom of the body, survival, and self-love, and resolves with healing gained:

this is the body that knows
how to leave
like a song rising from nothing
like music leaving a cathedral

The poems in Between Twilight reach for grounding despite the breakage and disorientation that abuse creates. They express deep human longing for healing’s warmth, for self-knowledge and self-understanding, and for somehow putting the broken pieces together to fit as they belong. For example, in the title poem:

Let’s start with destruction
the decomposed bones
and walls collapsing after a strong wind

then go back
to how it was
before wholeness
before meteors
fell like rain

before shadows
understood their thirst
for light

before our bodies
became capsules
for sorrow

before you or I
had a name
and the nebulae and galaxies
accepted me
just as I was

The poet recognizes that healing takes time, during which memories persist and wounds often remain merely scabbed over. In “Returning,” Post paints revisited pain:

find the hayfield
where you sat for hours
when you were seventeen
just before you fled

find the unrepentant
asphalt roads
that led you to
the desert and its red clay
how it stuck
to the underside of your boots
for months
find the forensics
the quiet, still
music of dried blood

These introspective, often mystical poems venture into the abstract, exploring beyond narrative, beyond the tangible description of experiences and characterization. The poems journey from a speck of dust to the broader cosmos and return to their home ground. In “Precision,” the speaker, who may have cooked under duress far too often, shares directions for making an unusual type of pie:

Cut the crust edge
from your open mouth

fold the shape of the pie
into uneven edges
of remorse

wipe the flour from your
merciless lips

bake your body
at a temperature
only known for endings

and then forget
why you came into the kitchen
in the first place

Post does more than play with literary devices here or exhibit her prowess. She cries from her soul to all who can hear and understand and to all that is good. Strength of character and faith in virtue ground these poems, which, in contrast, examine a body, heart, and life torn apart again and again. In the end, the poet’s will of steel stands firmly on the path of goodness, compassion, and light.

The poet also writes of love found after deep healing, poems that shine with the brilliance of shafts of sunlight following a cleansing rain, as in, for example, the beautifully lyrical “Twenty Minutes into a Deep Sleep”:

You pull me off the couch
at midnight
to go outside
and witness the blood moon,
the lunar eclipse

I promised you I would get up
so I meander slowly outside,
half awake
until the crisp air enters my skin

we stare silent
your finger looped in mine

we are watching the midnight sky
being broken and reassembled
all in a matter of moments

the tribunal of trees
hiding the edges of an unknown
forest of stars

the news stories say
“this is the lunar eclipse,
you can stare straight into it”

and we do
until gravity falls
onto itself

until I freefall beside you
as we sleep

the room dark
and iridescent
all at once

Similarly, in “Directions,” Post celebrates the depth of trusted, mature love:

I no longer look at the signs
instead, listen to my favorite radio station
and turn each corner
without a single thought

the way
I turn into you at night
the street lamps
blur to skin

the cul-de-sac of
your curved back

the curb of your hipbones
and my skin warming,
coasting into yours

In Between Twilight, Connie Post’s courageous, honest writing dives repeatedly into memories of disillusionment, abuse, fear, and pain. Time and hard-won healing have aided her in distilling wisdom, forgiveness, and compassion from the past. Unlike Mozart, Keats, and too many other tragically short-lived artists whose works also guide humanity toward light and love, Post has survived to find safety, stability, and grace, turning the pain and ecstasy that she’s experienced into poetry that astounds and nurtures her readers’ hearts and souls.

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