review by José Angel Araguz
Early on in like everything else we loved by Sarah A. Chavez, a micro chapbook published by Porkbelly Press, the reader is presented a scene in which the speaker describes a hole where the city has uprooted a tree as follows:
Like losing you, the loss of the tree
was quick. One day, diagnosis, next
dust from the wood chipper coated
the large hole in the grass
where the stump was pulled out.
Such a big hole. So big I could
sit in it, so I did, and ran my hand
along the edges of root
left connectionless beneath
the grassy surface. I put my tongue
to the limbs’ ashes, the saw dust
sticking to my shirt and pants.
This image of the speaker not only observing but dwelling on the dismantling and death of another, specifically of a tree, is legit enough. But the image of the speaker in the hole, physically present in the absence of the tree, serves as a metaphor for this project, underscoring grief as exploration marked and forged by persistent excavation of the self and of memory.
In this collection, Chavez adds to her series of “Dear Carole” poems that have become their own body of work within her larger body of work (which can be found across her full-length collections Hands That Break & Scar (Sundress Publications, 2017) and All Day, Talking (dancing girl press, 2014)). The poems of like everything else we loved are elegiac epistolary poems, poems that celebrate and hold space for the grief and love the speaker in them feels for Carole, and doing so through the direct address of a letter. Yet, it’s the poetic sensibility on display in these poems — a sensibility able to honor a lost loved one in a way that is intimate as well as accessible — that marks the accomplishment and gift they are to the elegiac and epistolary traditions.
The poem from which the image above comes from, for example, is entitled “Dear Carole, Dermatologists Call the Body a ‘Trunk’,” a title that in its word choice and phrasing invites us into the realm of gossip and daily life. There’s an urgency to this address, a sense of having found something out that only one other person will understand, accompanied by the need to share it. One feels you are overhearing two kindred spirits alive together through the fact of the poem.
While the epistolary form necessarily marks it as a one-sided conversation, the voice in this and other poems in the series takes its time meditating and speaking to Carole in empathetic, blunt, and candid ways. The result is a voice whose honesty is animate and grows before the reader. In this way, poetry creates a space of connection, of relating, of inside jokes and acknowledged flaws, and ultimately of mattering.
The image of the speaker in the hole is almost like they would press themselves into the Earth similarly as the writer presses the words onto the page. I think I keep coming back to this image because of how honest it feels. It’s the kind of thing you’d share with someone only if they mattered to you. In sharing with Carole in these poems, the speaker evokes for us the richness and depth of mattering.
like everything else we loved can be purchased from Porkbelly Press.
To check out more of Sarah A. Chavez’s work, check out her site.
Lastly, here’s a dynamic essay where Chavez breaks down her thoughts on “Working Class Poetry.”
Leave a Reply