Poetry: Charlotte Boulay's sharp eye and ear serve truth and beauty

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Charlotte Boulay: Her eye stays steady and sharp. (Roger Boulay)

Foxes on the Trampoline

By Charlotte Boulay

Ecco. 53 pp. $14.95


Reviewed by

Frank Wilson

 


Travel, they say, is broadening, and Charlotte Boulay seems to have gotten around - notably, in the poems gathered in Foxes on the Trampoline, as far as India. But you can voyage inwardly without making a move, and Boulay seems to have racked up a good deal of interior mileage, as well.

No matter, though, her direction or location, because Boulay's eye stays steady and sharp, and in combo with an alert ear, makes music out of subtle connections: "color,/that sun-in-a-cup"; "the wind bosses/the flippant leaves"; "the Morse tap of rain on the roof . . . as indecipherable//as the staccato of a fly at the sill"; "water as clear as the moment before waking/from a dream." A later poem, "Honey," tells of

my father,

who once told me that the feeling of weightlessness

just before sleep is a cellular memory of floating

in the ocean.

References to travel, boats, rivers, and sea prove telling. Clearly, this is no random collection, but one with a well-thought-out itinerary. Music remains paramount, however, with a longish poem near the end called "Fleet" serving as a grand recapitulation of what has gone before:

I labeled the folder 'maybe-baby' and I kept it

hidden and counted days . . . but now

the baby is dreaming the boat, and

the boats are burning.

That sharp eye and alert ear capture the disappointment: "My happiness was/mismatched and empty; an oar slid from the rowlock//like a ready tooth from the gum." Foxes, sort of, figure obliquely: "the baby swam in fox fire, its limbs weightless/and prickling with light."

As "Fleet" draws to a close, "all autumn I watched women grow round as ticks." But "losing too is still ours; forgetting is the crescent moon." Two poems later we meet those "Foxes on a Trampoline":

I would never tell them I am watching them

pretend to fly . . .

What I want is folded up somewhere,

or buried, or slipped under the sea. I have everything

else. . ..

Much craft on display here, in the service of truth and beauty.

 


Frank Wilson is a retired Inquirer book editor. Visit his blog Books, Inq. - The Epilogue. E-mail him at PresterFrank@gmail.com.