Cleave by Angela Felsted - REVIEW by J.R.McRae
This first chapbook by Angela is a promise of more intriguing, achingly revealing, painful and joyous revelations to come. It is an intensely personal collection. Were it not for the pull of the wonderful imagery, one might flinch from its almost too acutely drawn accounts.
The loss of a parent – “a man holds a little girl’s hand” – gives us the pain and self doubt of a child who feels abandoned by parental separation and yet, in hindsight, cannot deny the feelings in the last contact and memories invoked.
“you think of the hug he ached to give you
filled with sunsets, sandcastles, a warm breeze
handfuls of shells from the sea.
First love laid bare – “under waning stars” and “she came to you as a new bride” - in the hands of a much older man, is as much a diary of betrayal as a rite of passage.
“friends, he called us
in the hushed fervent
voice of a preacher
clasping my body to
his, front against front
like a god fearing man
prays palm against palm.
our shoes made
circles in the dying
leaves. our friendship
dying with them.”
Images of snow/frosting and sunshine/yellow flowers weave through the entire collection, defining its pages and creating a sense of life in all its complexity and contradiction. Some examples follow -
“daffodil petals unfurling
to the sun, spreading with
the swell of her stomach” [she cried in to the silver delta]
through his scalp like new
grass, meadows of gold”
“her baptism like
a swatch of snow-white cotton, taken from the blanket
nurses wrapped her in at birth.” [when my daughter moves away from me]
and one of my favourite verses –
“in the station, a clock strikes two.
on the platform, snowflakes kiss.
years from now, the girl will leave home
and the snowflakes whirling, falling in her hair
will mirror the stirrings of her
guarded heart: soft, cold, delicate. “ [a man hold’s a little girl’s hand]
Married life is shown as a seesaw of love and disaffection - “your truth like a water drop” and “your love like an old well” -
“metal squeals on metal, ropes
stretch, arms ache. the bucket creaks as
i lift it to my lips, tip back my face, wait
for the life-giving deluge of your love.
an avalanche of topsoil falls into my
mouth. why do i always come back?”
Then there is the anguish of motherhood – “if I refused to cry”, “neurofeedback” and “sitting in church” – the gigantean effort, the endless wondering and helplessness fed by censorious others,
“and that’s when i sense it: the wary gaze of the
woman in front of us, moving from
my brood to her four obedient daughters
each with a wide brimmed pale pink hat.
they fold their hands just like their mother’s
silent mannequins in a fancy store window”
The collection starts with “buttercups” and ends with -
“gauzy in the moon's silver-white rays.
naked skin glowing as pale frosting “
This is a collection that will resonate with women the world over! But keep tissues by and be prepared for the sharp sting of recognition.