Reale's poems ring with so much grief, that particular agony that only the parent of a fiercely suffering child endures. That her child is grown renders is no less excruciating, perhaps more. Her experiences are at once mundane "I am in the chair in the corner, overly warm in my winter coat, pulled around me like a fortress" and life or death: "I want to crawl into the bed with my son, hand deliver him to safety like once before" (ICU).
What Reale manages to accomplish so delicately is capture that which only a parent, and more specifically a mother, in this situation can fathom--the ever present knowledge that everyone else who cares or pretends to care will not suffer for your child's pain as you will: "His fingernails grow, while everything else stands still. I mention them to the nurse, a young woman with her hair in a severe bun, made up in irritation and sleeplessness. Least of your worries, she says, one foot across the threshold and already out the door" (Crossing Borders). Even seemingly well-intentioned relatives and friends have the look of "so glad-it's-your-son-and-not-mine" (Unspoken) because this is every parent's ultimate fear.
And what "All These Things Were Real: Poems of Delerium Tremens" declares most fervently is one of life's ultimate hardships--that we dread what ill fate might beset our children and when one does we have not the luxury to sit in our own despair. We must claw our way outside of our bludgeoned hearts into whatever the daily existence is for the sick child to do what is best for them, every single second, sacrificing absolutely everything for their health. Everything else, our pride, our sorrow, our regret, our isolation, our confusion, becomes nothing. Reale seems to suggest that if, as a parent, you've never heaved yourself bloodied through one of these ordeals, you are one of the lucky ones. And the ultimate irony she delivers is that while delirium tremens is a condition whereby one experiences hallucination, the fear of the mother whose child is suffering is a reality so much scarier, so much more haunted, so horrifically indefinite. The child can and might come out on the other side, but a parent's heart is rocked by her child's lurking demons, forever.
You can purchase this collection here.
All These Things Were Reale: Poems of Delirium Tremens
West Philly Press