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No Name Harbor

ISBN: 1-4241-1719-4

By Barbary Chaapel
Reviewer: Cheryl Townsend

January 2009

One of my near monthly trips down to Tucker County, West Virginia, I stopped in the Mountain Made Gallery in Thomas to get a new bottle of locally mixed Patchouli & Bergamot oil, as mine was near empty. They were out. I asked them to order more. So, I perused the other shelves and focused on the books. Local writings of local history and lore, local cookbooks and local nature guides, local ghosts and battle grounds. Then there was the poetry. Flipping through the pages of most, I put them back as housewifey frolics with word assemblages. Then I read a few lines of Chaapel’s. I read a few more. Then I wanted to read more. I bought the book.

Arranged in elemental chapters of Earth, Sea, Sky and Fire, they expressed appreciation in an honest language that had nothing to prove.

In her poem “The Snowman’s Child”, a young girl builds a snowman over “Green-veined burgeon of tulip leaves/Driven down, hardpacked under little/Boots” that will later “Spring with sweetest air/From the tomb of the snowman.”

With true Southern hospitality, we are invited in to dinners of ramps & corn bread, chicory coffee and sweet tea. We can take hikes where “Black limbs of for rest bend inward to the thickness of themselves.” We witness the feeding of a homeless man with “Eyes, river milk” and her family at the deathbed of their mother, she eulogizes “Her body was our garden.”

And then we start chapter two, “Sea,” and the manly nautical travels taken on a sailboat that seems to have quite a history behind it. There are floating Haitians in a boat with “Urine-splattered timbers/Saturated with spent hopes,” and tropical waves, ruptured vertebrae and “Swimming With Mermen”,

Imagine satin-scaled mermen,
Tumbling muscles of fin,
Arms like wet sea shell, singing,
All the world in their eyes.

And from open seas to open sky. Celebrations of Solstice, shape shifting in the hollows, and “The Possibility of Redemption”

At the shore in winter
Amidst thick piercing ghost brambles
And last summer’s rose hips,
Sit on stone cold stone.
Wind soughs.
Sea smoke clears.

Learn the joy
Of holding your shoulders straight
Look far above
To endlessly round sky
Where you can build
A new home for spirit lost:
Saul to Paul
in one glorious glance.

Or

Smelling of leftover sex,
Chocolate on tongue,
(Prisoners of life entitled to last requests),
Take a walk beyond the hard morning strand,
Drink.

And yet more unpretentious poems of gypsies, spirit guides, and chocolate brownies. In “Oh, Thieving Boy” she gives a story of lost love and...

The power of a full moon
And a French car.

Wasn’t as if we planned it.
You were already yourself,
Tall, dark Froggy.
You wiggled against me.
I saw my reflection
Swanning about in you eyes
And fell in love with me as yours

I’m hoping on my next trek to the hills I’ll find a new collection from Mz Barbary. Some new adventures and some old memories. Hell, even her name is enjoyable to read.

Barbary Chaapel is a sailor who dedicates her collection “To the memory of Gwendolyn Brooks, who told me I’d have this book.” I’ve met Gwendolyn; she knows what she knows.

 

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