LIMINAL POSSIBILITY: a review of The Good House & The Bad House (Recenter Press, April 2018) by doe parker
There are some things I want to forget and remember anyway. What I wish to hold onto, is frequently forgotten. Memory is a tragic thing. Labyrinthine like the opening and closing of doors down narrow hallways, after winding staircases in a drafty house. In his newest collection of poetry, doe parker examines a vessel that has simultaneously been too lived in and incredibly vacant with care and grace. Soft hands learning how to open. How to be a body again. How to contain.
“i talk about a memory that sounds like it says something about me to avoid talking about how i’m inside the house & outside the house at the same time.”
There is a Toni Morrison quote that goes, “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” The Good House & The Bad House is a constant unraveling of origin and un/becoming. parker reveals an etymology of dissociation by splicing the Now and the Past and daring them to share the same floor plan. But Memory is a tragic thing. The beginning of the book finds us confronting numerous redactions in narrative.
“at school my favorite game is ____________. where we throw _________ at ___________. dad doesn’t feel anything about ____________ & carries it like it’s the weight of ______________.”
At first, they read plainly to me as mental roadblocks, the brain-fog cushions trauma strategically places in your brain when you dare to access your Triggers. One thing about this book, however, is that it begs to be reread over and over again. Upon reading the book a third time, the passages almost seemed like Mad Libs. I asked myself, what have I lost within me that I need to remember? What am I as “…far away as possible from…” and yet “ / still touching?”
We have been given the honor to not only watch a rebirth of sorts, but to engage in it, to reach deep into the chasms of a life with the narrator and retrieve what we’d left behind. parker constructs a tangible history for himself, contextualizing family knitting projects as opposed to transitioning or darting from mock up designs of a house’s floor plan riddled with little secrets in miniature handwritten text (one note reads “a leather chest me & me could fit in” ) to brief text compartments brimming with quiet complexity. Some pages physically look more white space than text and often punctuation, besides commas, is sparse so as to linger on the page and the tongue, leave you floating in this ether of Memory, Trauma, Being & Time. The incidents parker conjures into the book are always Happening, are neither good nor bad–just are, despite.
“me & past-myself
holding hands over
the thresholds of two facing houses.
you like how i look & i like how
brave you are. i hold you until
we’re one person,”
Eloquently, parker whispers possibility into this void and places all of his selves, and ours, right in the middle of things. There is all this space begging to be explored outside and in the interior of these worn, gendered bodies. All this Happening alive with the bare truth.
All this you, begging to be witnessed.