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Shelly Love

Book Review: Edible Flowers by Lucia Cherciu
Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2015

In her poem Sealed With a Drink, Lucia Cherciu writes, “A lark spread its wings/ hiding in the folds of a black cherry tree/ sewing the seams of the sky together.” Much the way the lark sews together seams of sky, Edible Flowers is a stitching together of human lives in the wake of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s political agenda. A familiarity with Romanian politics and history will enrich the experience of this collection but is not necessary to fully engage with these poems, as the language is lush, the images are visceral, and the human narratives contained within these pages are easily accessible.

Left Over Communism in December opens, “Trains packed, windows frozen./ A peasant with a live rooster on her lap/ sits next to a delicately made up blonde/ with tall boots and short skirt./ An old woman wears a shawl/ over her scarf over her coat./ Her clothes smell of wood fires/ in a big stove.” All of these lives, seemingly disparate, yet shaped by the same forces, share space in this book, and the fastening together of these different lived experiences creates a sort of patchwork, in terms of the book’s structure. The ordering of the poems feels strongly controlled at times and fortuitous chance at others: some of the poems speak to one another, some lie in sharp contrast with each other, and others feel slightly removed from the poems they proceed or follow. Although the subject matter in these pieces often deals with moral horrors and traumatic life experiences, these events are sewn together with a deft hand not relying on pleas to pathos and gain strength in the honest testament to the human spirit provided within these pages.

While the poems tend to be narrative in nature, they convey more than a story on the page, because the line breaks are carefully considered, and there is ample white space, which leaves the poems open for the reader to insert his or her own experience into the writing. The language is deceptively simple, because it is the vernacular of the everyday. Yet the language creates a lush fabric, even when experiences appear ineffable, such as in the poem Torture, “Dulled by the inertia of nouns/ and non-existent verbs,/ we sway softly/ trying to spit back a silk thread,” or in The Bank and the Church, “Their school and church,/ she is now a bridge/ they don’t cross just yet,/ shielding them from/ the unspeakable/ depth of waters.”

Although Cherciu effectively documents rural life in Romania post communism and contrasts this struggle with what it is for her to try and hold onto her culture while living in a foreign land, there is much of this story that is not contained within the 62 pages of this slender volume. In order to witness everything which has transpired in Romania, one would have to write a tome. But the collection gains as much from the narratives which are left in the silence of the margins as it does from the lives encapsulated in the short lines and stanzas. This is best surmised in the closing of Cherciu’s poem, Censorship, “Blue like the warmth under wings,/ what went unsaid.”

Shelly Love is a poet, mother, and lover of nature living in the St. Croix River Valley.

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