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(After)life: Poems and Stories of the Dead Paperback – July 20, 2015
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Here are some quotations from the anthology to give a feel for what’s in it:
Babo Kamel suggests one way the “dead” live on,
Sometimes the dead cover the mirrors
with their own faces so when I look at myself
it’s my mother’s features I see—
Erica Goss explains how the “dead” used to communicate,
Before telephones the dead sent letters sheets of tissue so thin
a hand passed through them like smoke.
In the rest of the poem, she assures that now they seem to use the phone like the rest of us.
Vuong Quoc Vu, musing over some found bones, realizes that he and these dusty bones are made of the same stuff. What’s their difference he wonders and decides,
He, too, was all dust and bones, but his dust breathed and his bones carried his sweet weight.
In his story “Eureka,” Ross Baxter has a character transfer his soul into a computer just before he dies. He’s contacted a colleague so that she can share his discovery with the Dean and the world, but, when she arrives at the lab, she calls 911, reports finding his body, then,
Once the operator had taken the details, she returned the phone to her pocket, and then pulled the computer’s power cable from the wall socket. As the screen flickered off, she wondered exactly what she would tell the priest at her next confession.
What an interesting question. What should she confess to her priest? Is she a murderer? or is she a defender of “the billions who put their faith in all the different religions?”
The emotional range of this anthology includes the witty, the meditative, the mournful, and the grief-stricken. Nothing simple here. As it should be.
I expected to like Ellen Bass’s poems--and I did--especially “Morning” about the death of a mother, but I was surprised and delighted by (new to me) Babo Kamel’s very different poem, “Sometimes the Dead” on the same subject. I’ve heard Ken Weisner read around town, and I was moved by his technically interesting “Listening to Ives.” Jason Arias’s short story “Dead Girlfriend” is subtle and more ambiguously interesting than the title suggests. I enjoyed the sounds and questioning voice in David Perez’s “The Last Stop Ranch,” the details in poems by Erica Goss and Kimberly Cates Escamilla and Darrell Lindsey. Calder Lowe’s “Lent in the Age of AIDS” made me deeply sad and “It Touches You Everywhere” by Candace Elise Hoes made me squirm.
I wouldn’t recommend this anthology to anyone freshly grieving, although there are poems here that console. Perhaps the best description of the collection can be found in the final lines of Vuong Quoc Vu’s “Every Ghost Story is a Love Story” – “What is a ghost but a love story / that refuses to be forgotten?” Good poems and stories are just like that. I look forward to more collections from Purple Passion Press.