BODY OF CRIMSON LEAVES by CELIA HOMESLEYEILEEN TABIOS Reviews
Body of Crimson Leaves by Celia Homesley
(The Backwaters Press, Omaha, NE, 2006)
In Body of Crimson Leaves, Celia Homesley’s song floats effortless through many notes.
The voice is innocent. An innocence not dispelled by age:
Tonight, I am an old woman
sitting prettily, drinking tea
—from "Widow Moon"
It’s an appealing voice with a femininity that, while overt, is not overbearing:
She lies still
as a cloud shadow,
a body washed up
on a shore of violets.
—from “News a Park, Green as Heaven”
The voice also exudes light
—from “My House: A Treatise”
which facilitates the lyricism in not just individual poems but enhances the overall lyrical tone of the collection -- the whole more than the sum:
How could you have known
that the feather would serve only
as a reminder
of when you stood in water
purer than heaven,
and a bird flew
You were a girl.
The sky was the sky.
The sun drizzled gold
on your shoulders.
Let’s not miss the sensuality of many of the poems
When I think of love,
I think of the way
Rain rushes around us,
And sifts through our pores,
Feeling for home.
--from “We Are Vessels for Love and the Rain”
And throughout, and marvelously so, there are the many examples that surprise the reader, intriguing the reader:
The girl in the photograph
Runs naked from the town just bombed. Or consider
The lily, leafless, blooming in full.
--from “The Garden Where Girls Grow”
or jogging the reader into pleasure:
I want to be worshipped, the way
Bees worshipped the oak tree
At peace in the flower garden.
They flowed in and out
The dark knothole
Hearing the souls
--from “The Holy-Body”
Even light is presented in a fresh way, always good to see in poetry which, I think, will always be replete with poems on, about, or discovering light:
Gold and swollen light
Bristling, curves full,
Offers her breasts, star-
Mind, glitter-wrist, kneeling
On earth: rewind this
Scene over and over.
--from “The Garden Where Girls Grow”
Many poetry collections possess a lot of the same tones above. In fact, of light, I empathize with how Jake Ricafrente’s enchanting poem “Regarding Glass” begins as: “I won't begin with bending light— / we've had so many of those before…” (from MiPOesias Asian American Issue).
What makes Body of Crimson Leaves stand out from its light-filled, lyrical peers are lovely imagistic gems that rely on pastoral (in the sense of rural versus urban) metaphors. Here is one poem in its entirety:
Mother of the Dead
The river lies still,
It traveled for years
beneath the mountain
of flowers that
shatter like glass.
It carried the shards
Like a mother carries children,
around the earth.
Ultimately, this collection is yogic -- unites body with the (natural) world:
dark as emeralds
to a lighthouse
whose little pulse
It’s a well-titled book: Body of Crimson Leaves. The human body formed by leaves. Human and nature yoked. From Wikipedia (sorry, it’s just so easy to rely on Wikipedia):
Sanskrit yoga is a derivation of yugam "yoke", cognate to modern English yoke, and Latin iugum in Latin, all from Proto-Indo-European *yugom, from a root *yeug- (Sanskrit yuj-) meaning "to join" or "unite". // The term is attested since the Rigveda [a sacred Hindu text] in the sense of "act of yoking, joining, attaching, harnessing…"
I could conclude there, but then I paused over the back cover’s “Author Photo.” It looks like Homesley is a redhead (russet?). Well, the color of her hair, I slowly realized, sets the tone for the palette of the front and back covers: differing shades of autumn. And why not? Yoga, too, is about harmony. The Body of Crimson Leaves yokes together the poems with stellar book design, as well as joins the reader closer to the book if that reader is paying attention.
It’s a subtle design -- you really have to pay attention to, rather than glossing over, the cover’s colors and images. On the front cover, the forefront presents trunks of birch trees -- deftly strategized as one then sees trunks and it's the reader('s eyes) not the poet which must complete the transformation of the trunk to tree. The trees are set against a forest blazing out an Autumn rapture -- a palette you then would be able to link back to the poet herself through her hair color, if you’re attentive enough. But, of course, one can’t yoke with the world if one isn’t paying attention to that world. Mulling over this, I recall this ending from “Widow Moon”:
But it is autumn,
it is dark,
and the moon,
I feel her
jungle of arms.
She is wrapping
around this house,
pulsing through crevices.
I want to slip out
of my blue housedress
and into my young,
The poet observes the world (moon) and ends up into her suddenly sensualized (young, beautiful) body. I don’t know whether Homesley practices yoga. But I am certainly grateful to her for showing how poetry and yoga can be paths accommodating the multiplicity of One.
Eileen Tabios HEARTS wine, dogs and Thou.