Paperback: 86 pages
Publisher: Five Oaks Press (August 13, 2017)
Reviewed by: Pramila Tripathi
The Temple She Became by Rachel Custer is the poet’s debut book, consisting 61 poems. Going through her poems will present the readers before a world of her time spent in Indiana, which she sees as her “most vulnerable hour.” The poet goes on to provide more bucolic images related to Indiana as “in Indiana barns, danger-/less and feared by nearly all. There/in shadow, waiting for daylight to fade.” In the poem “Softly Spoken,” the images of farmlands have somehow got mingled with the complications of producing a masterpiece and after a while, the images get collated in such a way that the poem becomes a representation of life, a kaleidoscope of its evanescence. The line in the poem, “this is how I knew he was lying” suddenly shifts the focus to the intricacies of the adult mind from the innocence of the little girl, who is “lying in sunlight.”
There are religious connotations in this collection of poems where often religion gets intermingled with human relations and grief, and poses a striking sentience of the mundane. The poem “Parenthetical Due to Cold” can be said to be an example of this kind. The poem brings with it the image with a man with the lines: “Outside, just where the woods begin/to thicken against the world,/there’s a man, smoking, standing/like a lament.” The reference of Jesus is further brought in with” anything, really—I keep searching for punctuation./Because of you, who wore/me like a beard.” There is a dreamlike quality in Rachel’s poems, which are adorned by the images of a dewy forest or a dusty village. However, the dreamlike quality is somewhat broken in “Dope Sick Monday” where the poet has painted a picture that is more of a nightmare than a dream. Here she compares the day to newsprint, bringing the dread of the day out. The images here are stark and hard-hitting and the use of the imagery of the bats gives the poem a sinister quality. “Something is trying to crawl/out of my soft,/soft belly/and I still feel nothing -/not one word.” The final lines of the poem are sure to leave the reader spellbound as feelings are compared to words, and the intangible and the tangible mix. A beautiful analogy between the moon, a woman, the night and God has been created by the poet in the poem titled “One Woman Show.” In the poem “The moon (with all the ego/of celestial bodies nowadays) trips” and “On a night like this, a woman might/become small again as a child, curled.” The poet further goes on to write: “On a night like this, a woman/might feel the weight/of starlessness, of a curtain/drawn black between/her body and God,/might consider the separate virtues/of clutch and push.” The poem beautifully binds the images and the moon, the woman and God mix up with each other, making it a single, organic image that breathes and lives on through the book.
Going through the book is a journey through a world of dreams, nightmares, laments, and words. It is a part of the poet herself, and you would not want to give it a miss.