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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Lithub

  

Failure Lyric

What Certainty In Reaping

11/09/15

In the throes of my divorce a couple years ago, I heard Elizabeth Bishop in an old radio interview pointing out that we humans get divorced all the time. She was answering a question about the damage divorce might inflict on children. My son was 5 at the time and I pulled my car over, trembling, to more safely hear Bishop forecast his fate from her grave. She went on to explain that we are divorced from things constantly—we are divorced from loved ones who die, we are divorced from places we lived, we are divorced from stuffed animals. I thought of the time my son lost his favorite blankey by the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bishop was saying we are fooling ourselves if we think the dynamics of divorce are somehow discreet from so many other aspects of life that children and the rest of us all have to get used to. Loss is a constant. I extrapolated: what distinguishes divorce may well be all the good that came before it, and the sheer possibility that goodness could go on forever. As opposed to the life cycle that will inevitably cease, love—placed under glass by the act of marriage—might just never end.

Until it does.

Kristina Marie Darling’s Failure Lyric is a certain post-mortem in that regard. A stirring meditation on her own divorce, Darling’s work turns a wintered eye to that dimension of the good that came before. If it’s possible for poetics to be clinical, Darling has done it. And that’s only part of what makes this work remarkable. Far from sentimental, Failure Lyric is artful in its meticulously limited scope. This work does not chart a rise and fall; it doesn’t depict the good times. It does not rage or blame. The only nod to “the way we were” centralizes around conspicuous disaccumulations (remembered references to “his last wife,” her ex’s inattention at ripe moments).

Instead, Darling populates a menagerie of haunting creatures and notions around her varied tracings of the past. A common theme is loss of voice, stopped-up throats. Both bride and groom stutter, cough, clear their throats; “when I saw you again, the trees swallowed their tongues,” “I tried to eat but the (wedding) cake lodged in the hollow space of my throat,” “I tried to kiss you but my mouth was frozen shut.”

Through this image-rich, serial misrecollection, Darling’s work affixes a death mask onto her marriage. Her text offers over and over—with more fervor as we approach the conclusion—“let me tell you a story about marriage.” And indeed she does. By remembering and re-remembering her dress, the cake, waiting at the altar—as a macabre parade towards disaster—these items (broken glass, fire and ice, dead birds that “said nothing“) come together to retrospectively call for the union’s severance, precisely at the site of its high ritual.

READ THE WHOLE REVIEW HERE

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