Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hibernaculum by Sarah E. Colona

Published by Gold Wake Press, Sarah Colona’s Hibernaculum brings vignettes that combine reality and fairy tale. Throughout the pages I encounter familiar creatures, characters, and yet I round the corner and there is the writer and her own tales, two worlds intertwined into a fantastic journey for the reader. I find myself wanting to search out a book of classic fairy tales to prove myself correct and I also want to dive into Ms. Colona’s life and learn more about her grandmother, her life as a newcomer to the South, the world we only get a glimpse of. There are far too many poems I want to share and I am happy to reveal just a tantalizing taste of them to you:


How did the wolf become so hungry?
How did the forest, replete with creatures,
Fail to feed such a cunning beast? Winter,
Not spring, had bitten him quickly—

Pulled her cloak of fur taut over his bones.
Bracken calligraphy swipes canvas.
There now, the path to Gran, frenzied white.
Our girl, a spot of blood, wrung from beetles.

Carmine. Scarlet hood—just so—against the cold.
Have a care with who made introductions.
Motive aside, the wolf politely inquired
After Red’s health and of those she loved.

Evergreen bears no blossom: only votive
Rag tied by our girl’s rosary-wrung hand.
Illness, the word on Red’s lip. Illness, ash-
Written in smoke above Gran’s cottage roof.

Exeunt Red pursued by the wolf. Far off,
An axe with a predatory grin sparks and sharpens.
With the soft clink of Gran’s jewelry box clasp,
Winter closes her jaws—hush now—about her prey.

I love this take on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the foreshadowing of the dangerous wolf and the girl who has a blood-red cape. Best to read it over twice, you’ll pick up more the second time.


It’s Gran’s funeral and I’m twenty-six
Years past caring whether it’s pills or swigs
That did her in this last hospital trip.
It’s enough the children have given up
Pretending she was someone worth saving.

Wind slips chill fingers beneath my collar.
Mums and roses fill empty folding chairs.
The parlor read Grandmother and panicked.
Knowing how Catholic broods can crowd these tents,
They’d set two rows too many at each end.

Tithing brought kind words. The priest,
Seminary fresh, (too enthusiastic
For my uncle’s liking) avoids stories
Of how or why Gran will be missed. Silence,
Here is Death’s elaborate pantomime.

Gloved hands check watches
Or exchange a flask. Some mask it better.
I can’t smooth the amused curl from my lip.
Nod like I’m listening. The priest reminds us
We’re to be buried whole, our hearts intact.
To me, it seems a waste of space.


It’s Gran’s course whisper in my ear tonight:
A lullaby-curse to always love less.
The old crone lies atop my chest—
Ear close to my heart to hear her blood flow.

I believe many of us have someone in our lives that would make the above poem relatable, it does for me. The writer describes a funeral lacking in attendance thanks to a person who did not inspire love, hope, or any other positive adjectives in those around her. The silence is magnified against the Seminary who does not have any reasons to explain why Gran will be missed, an absence of positive things altogether. For me it is a powerful poem that darkens the room for the reader. The empty seats are filled with flowers, in the silence the attendees checking their watches as though this funeral is a waste of their time, it is a darker landscape than most funerals simply because the love is absent from the room.


Misfit, tell me how to fix this. Is it is as simple as a whiff of magnolia, of skunk cabbage, of boxwood’s feral stench? What small adjustment must be made to balance thunderclap of dropped “g” and grammars enough to scar Miss Snark? I’m sweet tea and porch-talk swung. Snug as a blue girl in a red state can get. August-swathed, I tiptoe over bone yards of Confederate dead. Everywhere History begs your dollar or your pardon. Accept this and move on. Expect stares from eccentric ladies bent in benediction over fringed orchids. Catholicism only just wins over. Oh, bless her Yankee heart and its lesson in patience. In Whicheverburg, locals charm with sparkling daughters. Gems of the honeyed name: Cherish, Sugar, Bonnie Blue, Junebug, and Lulu. Blossoming gossips all. Beware the cost of living in this place where Faulkner knew Medea’s truth: where darlings die at the hands of their mothers, shrouded in gospel, paraded with baton tossing, sequin-blinded, lemonade stung. Still, screen doors remain unlatched. No innocent, I laugh: lock my own.

Having moved many times as a child and now as an adult moving about from town to town, I can relate to the prose piece above. The diction and dialect of dropped “g”s and the “bless her Yankee heart,” comments, very much like the ladies who were born and raised in the South. I love the line “Everywhere History begs your dollar or your pardon,” which is true of just about every destination and so very Southern to say “beg your pardon.” I just plain like this piece and had to share it.

If you enjoyed this sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy of Sarah E. Colona’s Hibernaculum for $14.36 at Amazon:

Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon…