Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Navigation of Loss by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Jane Rosenberg LaForge has been featured on Poet Hound before and I am pleased to feature her today with her chapbook The Navigation of Loss published by Red Ochre Press in 2012. While the title lets us know that the contents are about loss the poems themselves are composed of real and imagined scenes with emotions ranging from nostalgia to heartbreak. At the end of the collection is an interview between the editor Mimi Ferebee and the poet about her work which is enlightening and wonderful. I wish all poetry collections had this feature, even just a few short questions and the responses from the writer would be a grand thing for all readers. All of us are curious to a writer’s inspirations and motivations and the interview at the end provides us that crucial information. The collection is whimsical and stark all at the same time. Below I am happy to share a couple of poems:


If I could live in that place
that photographs not in sepia
but in burnt umber, so there
is enough of a reminder of blood,
of what was not carried out,
and left with wounds to open;
where trees do not endure,
but merely assemble, as if
they have been called for
that one final round, to collect
their retirement and meaningless
medals; there my feet would
not upbraid the dirt, and my eyes
would not tear at the cold;
my breath could be as thick
as the clay below and the warmth
of it would not matter. I might
wear a garment of earth, restore
the autumn to my hair, and I
would belong. I would be invisible,
I would be both bark and hollow.
I am so old now that I can only
be disappointed in my humanness,
my vanity and jealousness, and
I am left with only the option
Of waiting, neither for sunset nor
Twilight but for the stain to breach
Clean of all taste, and all of color.

This poem feels earthy and sensual in a way I did not expect. The poet speaks of older photographs where most, but not all, the color is drained out and how she wants to inhabit that space where everything is arranged just so and that nothing in the scene would or could be disturbed. I think we all feel that way at times, the desperate need for order in our lives, to inhabit some perfect scene that we find in magazines and TV shows and films instead of the imperfect and chaotic space of our real lives. She describes her reality at the end and so many of can relate to feeling “disappointed in my humanness.” There is no perfection, only humanity, it is a beautiful poem.

The Navigation of Loss

In the apartment I bought
with my inheritance, I can
sit at one end and feel as though
my grandmother’s grand bathroom
is just down the long hall; with the
sunken tub beside the clouded window
that smeared the landscape outside of it.
This is supposed to be about loss, how
it is quantified and navigated in cardinal
directions according to our infernal
compasses. It does not matter if ironweed
and cattails grew too high outside the
bathroom for the fire department, only
that my grandmother’s rooms had to be
sequestered far and away from everyone
else; she was so ill and delicate. In the
kitchen, there was an intercom, and my
uncle typed up a legend for its buttons,
on the old typewriter that left tears in the
consonants, and shadows in the vowels.
For the last button, he had typed “Mother’s
Room,” and when I was old enough to read
it I realized just who this man was, living
with my grandparents. My uncle hung his
antique maps throughout the rest of the house,
instruments devised before satellites and
contemporary battles. Continents distended,
oceans shrunk; there were fewer borders than
I remembered, and there were no rivers or
mountains. Just after my uncle died, his wife
tried to give me those maps, but I said it was too
soon for that. She told me he had confided he had
always been afraid of women because his mother
was always on the verge of death. That’s why he
became a doctor, though he would have rather been
anything else.

The poem’s ending catches my heart strings. The poet looks back on her family’s life as she was growing up and learns that her uncle chose his profession out of a fear of the unknown. So many of us pursue life either avoiding our fears or trying to learn more about them in order to overcome. What we don’t know is whether her uncle ever found the answers he was looking for and so there is another layer of loss for the reader to contemplate on. The antique maps are a visual cue and reminder of the poets’ uncle and his ways and I wonder if she ever decides to receive the maps and hang them in her own home?

If you enjoyed this review you may read more sample poems and purchase a copy of The Navigation of Loss by Jane Rosenberg LaForge for $11.00 at:

To learn more about Jane Rosenberg LaForge and find more of her poetry and writing, visit her website at:

Thanks always for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…

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