Why I'm a Rabbi For Obama
Wishing for a different communal discourse

Susannah Dainow's "Fallow"

The envelope was surprisingly small and decorated with stamps. Inside was a copy of a wee chapbook of poems, Fallow by Susannah Dainow. I started reading it with a pile of mail wedged beneath one arm, walking from the post office to my car, and then I sat in the parked car and kept reading until I was done.

These poems are sharp and evocative. Here there are relationships made out of silence and shared choices, a city where even the snow speaks Anglo, sisters who rarely speak, an angry father's fist, illicit sexual thrills turned to blood and rubble, pigeons like grey rats and a murder of crows, moments of insight and memory and sorrow pressed between the pages like dry flowers.

Probably my favorite poem in the collection is "Whalebone Corset." Here is a taste:

I was born asleep, slid
into a corset
of tapestry and whalebone,
invisible to the world, save
for my women -

mother and grandmother pulled and pulled
both sides to tighten me, evening
through the fight, wrench
out one side, then caress,
stretching the other -- I
came to crave the tug, the yank,
the spin-round push-pull as affection...

I especially love the way the poem ends. These are among the most hopeful lines in the collection, for me.

we are
decorseting -- peeling off
the skins and bones, one strip
at a time, we are taking
the echoes of whalesong and building
her back from memory, the record whole
and shaking oceans

An earlier version of this chapbook was a finalist in the 2011 Qarrtsiluni chapbook contest. Susannah Dainow's collection Fallow can be purchased for $14 by emailing the author directly: [email protected].