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