Review by Scherezade Siobhan (@zaharaesque)
Fire Sign by Katherine Osborne (Released by Electric Cereal, 2016)
In a world full of loud woundings, a poem erupts in the quietest blur, swells into an amphora for both grief and bliss, leaves a feeble ablution of footprints, makes a home in the space that once was reserved for the wound. This is the rootsong of Fire Sign: its reluctant kindling, its opalescent appetite.
Katherine Osborne writes like a single hurricane lamp left in the bluest desert. Her poems blink within the smallest eye of a mirador tutoring ships through the profound black language of the night. In a world so glossed from its own salamandrine sheen, crouching in some sighing blur, she devastates the hubris of cognition with the sharpest kindness.
First : Interior
Because we are creatures of guttural demarcations. Because we are always measuring the offenses of Time in rudimentary thresholds. Because we forgo the awareness of exits that allow us our first interiority.
I bet you are really good at untying knots. (pg. 11)
A diorama of flashbacks. A disjointed supplication. As if to say – we suffer from intent even when dissociating from it; its dauntless reversals thinning us into wisps of wishes that never settle, just swim in the air like shorn wings of short-lived fireflies.
I am delirious with ideas because I want to be
Another kind (pg. 12)
The interior expands itself, first as awareness then as amnesia. I know this desire to mutate, to remould the crude terra cotta of my brain into something neater, softer.
Alejandra Pizarnik has confessed this as burnished evidence – I have been born so much / and twice as much have suffered / in the memory of here and there.
To be born so much is the blunted meniscus of this repetitive Interior. Look at the blood you forged through your own two hands. Look at how much loss you can touch without turning into a ghost.
The pulse of each poem lingers in the shape of a question-mark. I juxtaposed my reading of this book with watching a series of documentaries on forensic psychiatry. I surmised that a good poem sometimes carries the brevity of a karmically launched bullet.
You put summer up for sale in my mouth (pg. 20)
The door to the Interior and also its exit wound – the mouth. A mouth nearly marsupial in its holding, mothering even the least clement of memories. A single line shadows the embankment of hunger dressed as ambition.
but I imagine you sighing afterward
the whole mercy of it (pg. 27)
Always the rough forgiveness of a visceral history.
Then, Living Proof
To be a darkening
When you have entered fully, the act of accumulating witnesses, the act of residence in residue.
I erase mouths with my own mouth. (pg. 55)
Swallowing the key to the first door. The way Alice Notley incants suspension as her only state. To be held in-between, indecipherably, argent in a delicate vice.
Hold me still. An undercurrent.
god leans in. (pg. 55)
You can’t undo the anatomy of God from your own swollen cadaver even after they have extracted it from the two rooms of the ocean. The black pearl diver. The chthonic fin of intangible sacredness. God leans in because of tiredness? Or just to nudge us a little into the gaping jaws of unforgetting?
He is fireproof coming down the stairs, a vertebrae of night dialing for me. (pg. 63)
Therefore, Fire Sign – leonine flames slithering through the attic of a loosened childhood, the apologetic horoscope memed in this-could-have-been-us-but-you-playing, the stripped yet unbroken body of loneliness that knows about the grayness of inseparable hours, that asks for nothing but a knowing tenderness.