In Whatever Light Left To Us by Jessica Jacobs / Sibling Rivalry Press / ISBN: 978-1-943977-19-2 / 44 pages / 2016
Jessica Jacob’s In Whatever Light Left to Us, is a chapbook infused with the sensual world. Bring your fingers to your lips after turning the page. This is poetry you can taste, and touch: poetry as incandescence of the ordinary world, a transformation of cornfields and golf courses, of ponds and swamps, of sumac and deer. A box turtle in the road becomes a humiliating reminder of all we try to be, and how we fail.
In “When Your Surgeon Brought Snapshots to the Waiting Room,” Jacobs writes of the uncanny interior of the body as she awaits the results of her wife’s surgery.
People say eyes are the windows
and all that, but it turns out it’s actually a pithy incision
into the navel, through which doctors spelunk
the world’s smallest camera for the world’s
weirdest home movie.
You can hear, here, the tender, steady rhythm of Jacobs’ verse as she threads the line, trying to make sense of the relentless fact of the body. Here, a body both sensual (her own, her wife’s) and medical (a uterus, “crawling with fibroids invasive/but benign as a swarm of white ants.”) She knows she must attend to the medical facts, and this tension between her poet’s lyricism and her fear makes for an astonishingly lovely alloy.
Here’s the opening of poem I keep coming back to, “In a Thicket of Body-Bent Grass,” every line of which shows Jacob’s masterful ability to make an image resonate with sound without ever curdling into easy sweetness.
Arkansas is aspic with last-gasp summer, making running
like tunneling: the trail’s air a gelatin
of trapped trajectories.
Yet deer float the twilight field
ears periscoping the woody browse.
Jacobs is a long-distance runner, and many of her poems are written from that place of being alone, running, the world unfolding around her while she directs her thoughts to her past self, her wife, their life together. She brings us with her, brings our bodies into her own, even as she crouches for a moment, low in the Arkansas brush, imagining herself animal as the deer who make their beds there. But her diversion in the field, alone like the bucks who “bed alone/in deadfall and ditches” is short-lived, for her wife is at home, “trying not to look for me again, out a window grown so dark it just reflects.”
“Forgive me,” she writes. “I’d grown so used to being lonely.”
Jacobs’ love for her wife, poet Nickole Brown, infuses every poem in In Whatever Light Left to Us and invites the reader to share as well. These are love poems that stand alongside the best of that overstuffed genre, love poems that remind us that perhaps they are still worth writing, and that love, even in these dark times, is something worth attending to.