Domenic Scopa's Review of Jim's Book
by James Reidel
Black Lawrence Press (December 19, 2013)
$8.95, 30 pages
James Reidel’s, Jim’s Book, leaves the readers unaware of the somber, and sometimes comical, destination that the lines render. “Coma Berenices” offers one of the most shocking examples of this skill. The entire poem ambiguously depicts images that, initially, seemingly do not correspond, yet the final four lines illuminate the entirety of them: “A gray so faint to the eyes, / you could still cut it all off for a sick child’s wig. / No one would not the wiser. / Not even the sick child” (Reidel 10-14). Suddenly, the “gray dye pack,” “dusting of Jack Frost,” grayness of the “moth,” and “harmless powder burns between your fingers” assume a connection, fragile in their imagery, but firm in their psychic associations—and completely unexpected. Reidel’s generous and unexpected voice also echoes in “Dina,” in which the speaker mournfully illustrates a sick woman with less life than “the dress hung on the wash line” (Reidel 4). Again, the unexpected ending unravels the mystery latent in the beginning and middle of the poem. The woman continuously casts a yearning look through the window towards “vireos and olive leaves:” “She did not talk, but only of the dog / that stood up like a man on its hind legs, pulling the end of its rope… The longer it barked, the more directions it wore into the dirt around the stake, showing her which way to set off, which way her drifter went.” Perhaps the drifter, a metaphor for the dog, assumes the woman’s health or vivacity or, perhaps, the drifter represents a lost spouse. Several possibilities exist to explicate the hollow stare of the woman, which do not seem to exist for the reader without the ending lines. All of the poems in Reidel’s collection exude these moments of surprise and all are equally pleasurable to ponder, live with, and revisit, the way a drifter returns to familiar and loved places.