A review Melissa Reeser Poulin’s Rupture, Light


Melissa Reeser Poulin has gathered 23 poems into a work of depth, quiet grace, and healing. In Rupture, Light she calls to a loneliness you didn’t realize you had. She offers you her loss, and makes space for you to share yours. She has carefully created space for you at her table, and she’s gathered things she loves: a field blue with dusk, little apples clustered on the bough, honeysuckle, cherries, bees, the thousand seeds winging down yearly.

Her language is an important naming, it hallows our small work, what we yearn for, what’s taken from us. To read this book is to trust this writer; to know that her rupture will spill tears as surely as it spills light; to know that we’re held in both.

I love this book in its wholeness, I’m hesitant to crack it apart. But, I suppose that’s part of the invitation.

The first poem is “Unbelief”, and it is in a null state that we begin. Melissa doesn’t ask us to believe anything, nothing will be taken for granted; we’re not even asked for, or exposed to, faith. Yet. Indeed, in this state, she doesn’t trust that spring will come.

And yet, things do come, life emerges, though through a torn net. We move into the work through rupture, but Melissa doesn’t hurry the light. She writes with tenderness and care, humility even, and from this place we come quietly beside her. Restrained lines and carefully measured meter at times loosen into a cascade of dreaming, and praying.

She moves us from the “un” into “non”, the darkness of grief and loss. In the devstating poem “Nullus Partus”, she writes, “I had a child/but she had no bones/he had no sex no name she had/no heartbeat no/birthday.” There is no easy redemption here, and that’s good, and right. Melissa invites us into the pain and makes no easy repair; rather, she asks us to be with her there. It’s in the remarkable strength of her writing that allows us to do exactly that, fully.

There’s something of the dark waters in the time before creation. Melissa has both a watertight language, and feels like a torn net. She’s tenuously balanced in a small boat as her mouth fills with waves, praying for the deliverance of solid ground. Which she finds; which will hold her grief, now a solid thing, now in motion.

Propelling the motion on this ground is Basho, drawn from Narrow Road to the Interior. We find stability, and begin tending the details of shared life. Melissa tries to surrender her “uns” – unskilled, unwilling – as she nurtures belief and the fruit at night, as her partner urges her outside. She surrenders to the work and asks for more; she’s making home and yearning into more.

A particular skill that Melissa possesses is her ability to convey alienation in an intimate way. Perhaps that’s the fundamental place of the poet, displaced dislodged disarranged somehow from the ordinary flow such that perspective is attained, and this perspective is harvested for the benefit of being returned to the stream of our evolution, or at least our healing. She leaves a home, she contemplates the wilderness of her yard, she meets and cares for new life, and in all these turns, her hands are filled with the work, her spirit speaking its deep knowing.

Water continues to be a complicated relationship as she tries to surrender to the child’s join in it, knowing what a precious gift it is, knowing where fires have come and consumed trees, knowing it may be something lost in the future. And in “Transplant”, she writes, “Rain spills like change/from great pockets./Still my skin resists,/the way abandoned soil/forgets its love of water.”

Melissa has summoned devastating loss and leaving, but she imbues it with warmth and grace. This is central to her gift and her sublime touch. The woman of these poems has suffered and been visited by grace, her hurt finds meaning in an open heart. When her husband journeys to a distant land in search of his ancestral origins, she welcomes ghosts and knows how to call him home. She softens stone with snow, melts snow with the heat of her hands, and in her “List” of the sublime mundane, “My heart/pours water, the neighbor smiles…”

She brings to mind another woman of the edge who’s looked into loneliness and joy, Amelia Earhart, who wrote a beautiful poem that begins, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”

As we approach the conclusion, and her final poem, “Yellow”, I’m reminded of the Hebrew concept of “Tikkun Olam” – as I understand it, the repair of the world, the reunion of the scattered sparks with their source in the divine fire. Melissa has brought us through this winter and its loss, its ghosts and snow and cold, to find melting gold, the sun, and things to come. Rupture becomes, not ripping loss, but the opening of birth, light tearing in. A masterful turn into redemption. Melissa is fully here, a’glow in her life and family and birth. The last rupture comes, but it is one that tears through isolation and loneliness, one that tears a cloud to let light through. She sews, and in her work is the repair of the world.



Chicago Yes I Can

Chicago At Large In 100 Words

Swimming against masked faces I’m lost and open to everything. Skyscrapers industrious not oppressive, air soft with summer. Run on Lake Michigan, history and vastness, hints at howl of winter. Millennium Park kids splash in art of the fountain, occasional adult gives in. Seeking jazz only finding tourism, the meat is real. Chicago dog, peppers relish tomato mustard celery salt. Then beef and sausage sandwich, glad for hotel gym. 102 Sears floors up standing on plexiglass over street, freaking folks out by bouncing, city of light and empty streets sliced by black moon. Departing, station is sweaty insanity. Going east.

The Chicago Art Institute In 100 Words

What a joy to find O’Keefe, Picasso, Monet. I love Seeing art through consciousness shifted, meditation method. I see in ancient statues spirits still residing, the blackened canvas is storm cloud scudding ancient city, Van Gogh makes my heart tear. Guards are hilariously full of sass – patron banging on wrong door, guard yells, “You’re going to break the fucking door.” Toddler cries out, I’m jealous. If I could be a toddler for 5 minutes in a museum I’d scream and touch statues. Photography exhibit shows dignity in suffering. Time is too short. I love it and think of Banksy.

The Pizza Question

Where to get Chicago Deep Dish pizza is a surprisingly difficult question for people to answer in that town. If there was an internationally known dish called Portland Peach Pie, I’d be damn sure to know of at least 9 places to get it. Among many tried and failed attempts at getting a recommendation, this conversation with an event security guard was the most painful.

“Is there a good place to get pizza around here?”

“Pizza?” (as if it’s a foreign dish he’s never heard of)

“Yes, pizza.”


“You’re going to have to go to a pizzeria for that.”

“Ok. Do you know of a good one around here?”

Pause. C’mon…

“They’re definitely in the vicinity.”

“Thank you.”

I did eventually stumble into a place where they had the thing on magnificent display. But since my train was departing soon and I didn’t want to board with the 7 lbs of leftovers I surely would have had from that monster, I had to go the meat and meat and cheese sandwich route. Some day…

All photographs by Noel Tendick.

Writing the Rails

On Empire Builder out of Union Station, I return on Coast Starlight in 30 days. I hop off in Whitefish, Chicago, Cleveland, NYC, Kansas, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, San Francisco. Rollick rumble howl, I’m crossing country of myth and imagination, romantic notions of what I’ll see, breathe, love. A work of long miles, expanding perception beyond quiet avenues of mind. A self bound and waiting grounds and stretches across a continent of places peopled and desolate, possibilities abound manifesting purpose. I carry new camera, new gi, new journal for capture and expression. I am constant and I am changed.