How to Love the Empty Air
Vulnerable, beautiful and ultimately life-affirming, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s work reaches new heights in her revelatory seventh collection of poetry. Continuing in her tradition of engaging autobiographical work, How to Love the Empty Air explores what happens when the impossible becomes real―for better and for worse. Aptowicz’s journey to find happiness and home in her ever-shifting world sees her struggling in cities throughout America. When her luck changes―in love and in life―she can’t help but “tell the sun / tell the fields / tell the huge Texas sky…. / tell myself again and again until I believe it.” However, the upward trajectory of this new life is rocked by the sudden death of the poet’s mother. In the year that follows, Aptowicz battles the silencing power of grief with intimate poems burnished by loss and a hard-won humor, capturing the dance that all newly grieving must do between everyday living and the desire “to elope with this grief, / who is not your enemy, / this grief who maybe now is your best friend. / This grief, who is your husband, / the thing you curl into every night, / falling asleep in its arms…” As in her award-winning The Year of No Mistakes, Aptowicz counts her losses and her blessings, knowing how despite it all, life “ripples boundless, like electricity, like joy / like... laughter, irresistible and bright, / an impossible thing to contain.”
I thought this was a nice collection of poems. I enjoyed reading them. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz really embraced the essence of love and loss of a mother. A truly heartfelt collection of poems. Some I liked more than others.
There is "My Mother Wants to Know if I'm Dead". Anyone who has a close relationship with their Mother can relate to this poem.
It goes like this:
ARE YOU DEAD? is the subject line of her email. The text outlines the numerous ways she thinks I could have died: slain by an axe-murderer, lifeless on the side of the highway, choked to death by smoke since I'm a city girl and likely didn't realize you needed to open the chimney flue before making a fire (and, if I do happen to be alive, here's a link to a YouTube video on fireplace safety that I should watch). Mom muses about the point of writing this email. If I am already dead, which is what she suspects, I wouldn't be able to read it. Any if I'm alive, what kind of daughter am I not to write her own mother to let her know that I've arrived at my fancy residency, safe and sound, and then to immediately send pictures of everything, like I promised her! If this was a crime show, she posts, the detective might accuse her of sending this email as a cover up for murder. How could she be the murderer, if she wrote an email to her daughter asking if she was murdered? her defense lawyers would argue at the trial. In fact, now that she thinks of it, this email is the perfect alibi for murdering me. Any that is something I should definitely keep in mind, of I don't write her back as soon as I have a fee goddamn second to spare.
Here is a little bit of the poem "On Getting Facials with My Mother"
Both of us trying to breathe deep, let go. Somewhere, years are being erased from my mother's face. She tells the facialist about me, her daughter, the writer down the hall. How we don't do stuff like this. How much we need it. After an hour, we're reunited. She looks beautiful: stripped down and glowing.
We put on our clothes and yes, we swallow hard when the cashier gives us the total, but we shake it off. We wear our new faces right into the sun, just like
we're told not to do. We can't help it.
The air feels too good, the future so bright.
O, Laughter, you are not forgotten.
My body is the jam jar you flew into.
You thought it'd be so sweet. You didn't realize it was made by crushing the most gentle of things. O, Laughter, Grief sees itself as a knife, carving out what needs to be seen.
See yourself as an ice skater, the knives on your feet. Sometimes the pain bursts out of me like a flock of starlings.
My throat releases everything but you. Laughter, be the slyest magician. Make me think it's easy work: this levitation.
I'll willingly step into the box, if you'd just cut me in half, spin my parts around, then make me whole again.
--Buylinks:--Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-to-love-the-empty-air-cristin-okeefe-aptowicz/1127130924?ean=9781938912801
Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is the author of seven books of poetry, including The Year of No Mistakes, crowned the Book of the Year for Poetry by the Writers' League of Texas. She is also the author of two books of nonfiction, most recently Dr Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which spent three months on the New York Times Best Seller List. Recent awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the ArtsEDGE write-in-residency at the University of Pennsylvania and the Amy Clampitt Residency. When not on the road, she lives in Austin with her family.