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Dissolution of Ghosts

ISBN: 1-932339-75-2

By: Berwyn Moore
Review by: Deborah L. Humphreys


When you look at the cover of Dissolution of Ghosts, Berwyn Moore’s first collection of poetry, you notice the painting of a pair of very large vibrant red cut pomegranates, and in the background is the shadowy almost invisible outline of a woman. This is the first indication of the impressionistic nature of these poems. The vivid images, the exotic locations and the ever presence of dream elements are the chief ingredients of these very lyrical pieces. We are in the kitchen of this poet’s life, around the table. Life is slowed down and moves from story to story. There are poems about her life and snatches of her experience.

The daughter of a physician who was a public health physician in Nepal in the 1950’s, she found a place in the medical field as a respiratory therapist and as a pharmacy IV technician. After studying nursing in college, she switched to English in her final year. However the themes of medicine and humanity are intertwined throughout many of the poems, such as “Sigh, Pant, Gasp, Wheeze.” She tells her class about how she has “shuffled around the chunks” of her life, “like pens/and pencils in a box,” and what she has “learned about the laws of the heart, systole and diastole, about breath. . . words sputtering into coughs, and about desire and death—how fragile the instant between them.” With honesty and frankness, she includes as a focus her own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In “A Woman Carries a Stone to Her Grave,” a contemplation of perhaps her own death, she writes

I walk to my room
with a stone, the windows open
to the chill, papers fluttering. I let the children
sleep and collect kindling for the fire.

Life in its great variety is the subject for her poetry: the death of a friend’s mother that highlights the tangled relationship, the suicide of an unknown woman in 1942 caught by a photographer, and the specters who have taken up residence in her bedroom. She wonders cautiously, reflectively, if she moves the furniture will they leave her alone.

The poems have this strong spiritual underside to them, some are dark and worrisome, but the poet appears to accept this lens it is the way that she experiences and understands her world. Her world is very real, illness, separation, loss and the completion of life’s daily tasks, but there is also a lighter side that is still rich and profound. There are no easy answers, but, gratefully, moments like this:

My friend rises from her quilts, smiling
ready for ice-cream, and the old man lifts a baby
from the window box, brushes off the dirt
then pats the powdered bottom. The baby laughs
at the gentle claps, the redemptive voice
floating the balloons around our heads,

And suddenly we’ll all laughing—
the old, the lost, the new, the cured.

Dissolution of Ghosts is published by Cherry Grove Collections (2005).

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