Only the Lonely Can Play in Meg Harris' Inquiry into Loneliness

Inquiry into Loneliness by Meg Harris is one of those collections that is layered in meaning. Having read the slender volume several times, I was struck, each time, but what I managed to extract that I hadn’t in a previous reading. And I love collections like that, because I can participate with the words on the page. As well, some of these poems struck such a chord, I felt like I could have written them---or, even better, that they were written specifically for me.

In an age where at every turn we are exhorted to take our lives’ by the shoulders and give a good look---“reflection” being the buzz word of the day, “inquiring” into one’s own feelings goes hand and hand with this and there is a reason we are urged to do this: because the act itself matters; because we matter---even if, especially if, others don’t realize it.

Harris invokes nature, our bodies, everyday phenomena and the quotidian in her poems, and extracts a bedrock of truth from each. Loneliness can be explicit, out in the open where others can see, and point, and thank the stars it isn’t them. Or it can be a small, quiet, padded room where it gnaws at us, eats away our best selves and then continues to thrive on our skulking shadows.

In “Hoboken 2012” we see how nature can toss us around like a dog with a bone and yet, we exist in parallel in conditions we cannot escape:

The sun rises with a hiss. In the rain

The objects of your life and the splinters

of your home and your neighbor’s

home are bathed into day,

as you slosh in the contaminant of sea

which salts the wound of clutter

that is your home and your neighbor’s

home shaken together in a globe of sewage

and gasoline. This is the drenched wedding

photo of your parents sucked now

to a glass with a muddied kiss.

You are a seasick captain settled

Under this cold and weighty ocean

the swamp of treasure sunken

and nothing like salvage or salvation.

In the poem “Apnea” Harris speaks of the moon that wanes, the belly that swells and the blush of sleep but oblivion is not far behind:

This poem is structured

In the breathless dream of night

where the silver-moon sparks magic

and cells are stars dividing---

sailing in the void.

This is a quiet collection in the sense that there are no gimmicks, no trying oh so hard to be clever moments: just good, solid poems that show in oh so many ways how loneliness is pervasive in modern life, but, as Harris writes in “Yes to Ghosts,” saying “yes” is often an acceptable answer.

Flying, if only in dreams

Yes, to the burning effigy

Yes, I say yes.

Inquiry into Loneliness

By Meg Harris

Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017


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