Read This: Better With Friends - Helen Losse
Helen Losse's new collection Better With Friends ($14, Rank Stranger Press) is a book of devotion -- to friends, family, God and memory. At first glimpse, and without more careful reading, the collection might appear to be a book of "religious poems," but it's far from it. While God does get numerous mentions, it's always in context and there is a running thread through the poems as the narrator works to keep her faith in the face of death, war, racism and bigotry.
Also snaking through the book are memories of trains. The arrivals, departures, distant sounds and iconic images of engines pulling long lines of cars through mountain valleys act as metaphor to our own personal and spiritual journeys.
Writing in an accessible, narrative style, Losse groups the collection into short sections, with two long poems -- "There Is A Presence" and "Where the Reverie is Apt to Lead" -- taking up the last quarter of the book. It's the latter poem that contains the line "This is a poem about living," which neatly sums up all the work to be found in this thoughtful collection.
Where the Reverie is Apt to Lead
This isn't about prayer as such
but concerns the yellow flowers and the barking dog,
the coffee shop downtown, where memory floods
the mind in uneven scenes, and no one prays or even
pauses as though he might pray, drinking the depth
of the city's drivel. This is a poem about living:
About visions in a world of dreams, about rough places
in the world's basement, where we see, hear,
and smell the vomit, before drifting off to chase truth.
This is about the man who sits in the gutter, wearing mis-
mated socks -- he's a lot like us -- and about
other common places the reveries might lead.