Heather Derr-Smith’s poetry collection The Bride Minaret (Akron Series in Poetry, 2008) is an intricate, heavy narrative, focusing in large part on the poet’s relation to her son and the specificity of places she’s visited or lived in.
Within this beautiful arrangement, three poems especially caught my attention.
In the book’s first section, “Portents,” I noticed the poem “Star Chamber.” Farm machinery would be strange to me, and this poem gives me such a clear image of what it might be like to encounter it.
“There are farm machines that look like spacecraft with spotlights
And drown out the stars above. You know what they are called,
The machines with names like pets and attachments.”
‘The Girl Named Tents, Tanf Refugee Camp’
In the book’s second section, “Prophecies,” the long poem “The Girl Named Tents, Tanf Refugee Camp” reads like a biography and a prayer. “She was supposed to be a boy, as all girls are”—thus begins her journey.
“She is nine years old and beginning to know.
But dreams continue to cudgel her, bit by bit, stone by stone,
Knocking her off balance.
The wind writes its calligraphy in invisible ink.”
This same form of silent messaging makes itself known to all the girl’s people:
“Alif by alif,
Every bone in the camp is bound together like the stitching on a codex.”
In the book’s third section, “Histories,” the poem “The Pelican” tells a wildlife rescue story. The bird’s mouth-pouch was hooked on a fishing line, “an episiotomy / That birthed only fear.” The poet’s father had a sewing kit — “He was prepared for anything but fatherhood” — and he “crept low to the ground in a gesture of humility the bird recognized,” enabling him to save the bird, according to the story she was told.
What the world communicates to us
In these lines I’ve selected, the common theme seems to be how some information is conveyed not through language but through embodiment: that of objects, people, and animals.