Nancy Posey, Review of Malaika King Albrecht’s “What the Trapeze Artist Trusts”
by Nancy Posey
WHAT THE TRAPEZE ARTIST TRUSTS
Malaika King Albrecht
In her new full-length poetry collection What the Trapeze Artist Trusts, Malaika King Albrecht sets the stage for the poems that follow with “Dear Stranger, This Is My Intimate,” a letter that establishes the elusive presence of a persona set “mid-dream.” Throughout these artfully arranged poems, she establishes what she calls in “Sound Knows Its Place in the Air” a “study / of loss in slow motion.” In the first section, “The Secret Keeper,” while some poems approach more implicit themes of separation, others deal directly with childbirth and parenting.
In many ways, the poems in this book convey a dreamlike state, and though “How to Walk Right Through a Woman” clearly indicates the breakup of a marriage as “he [steps] around [her] / packing his books, clothes, toothbrush,” the speaker experiences a loss of self, becoming invisible, immaterial. In fact, it is her self she seeks throughout the poems collected here, seeing “The rocks [writing her] name / on the beach” in “Leaving the Island.” When “lost in the waves / that sift the silt along the banks” of “Troublesome Creek,” she finds herself in the birds’ songs.
Anyone familiar with Albrecht’s other recent book Spill will notice the recurring watery images through the collection from the “push, gush / rush—the sounds of water” and the “wet cry” of “On Your Birthday” to “My Recurring Pool Dream” in which the speaker stands waiting to catch a leaping child.” The speaker seems to move between thirst and near drowning. In the second section she calls “Keeping Silence,” she shows the departure not of the husband packing his things and walking right through her, but of “The Drowned Husband” who leaves and simply “doesn’t wade back” but reappears later as a sea bass, a jar of water, the rain, the humid air, “so full of himself.”
In Part III “The Present,” she begins to come to terms with what is lost and what is found, noting in “When I Left My Country” that “there were 53 words for lost / and only 1 for found.” Despite all the loss, she finally declares in “How I Came to Me”: “I am in possession / of myself.”
Albrecht’s poems address what does and does not last. She notes in “What Grief and a Fever Bring” that horses “know / the beauty of impermanence” In poem after poem, she returns to the ripples of a stone dropped into the water, but in “Beautiful! Beautiful! Magnificent Desolation,” a title attributed to astronaut Buzz Aldrin,” she recalls those “footprints” left by the astronaut on his moon walk “that will last / longer than his life.” In “The Earth Is My New Pair of Shoes” the speaker finds herself standing silent unable to do anything “ but fit perfectly where I stood, my feet in the dear dusty earth,” as if at last aware of the rightness of place.
At last, in Part IV “The Broken and the Lost,” she declares “To the Man With His Back to the Chapel,” that she is “the footprint of a miracle, / the smoke of the just extinguished flame,” appearing indistinguishable from dust when captured in a photograph. In her closing poems, Albrecht does not promise anything less broken or lost, but concludes with hopefulness, encouraging the reader in “The Sunken Narrative” to “Imagine. . . survivors” whose “story can be told,” the pieces of the narrative, like “pieces of a broken mirror. . . collected and carefully / glued together to make a circle.”
As Malaika King Albrecht pieces together these lines, these poems, she creates a narrative, that while marked by brokenness and loss, forms something complete and new. Upon finishing the last poem, readers are likely to find themselves turning back to the beginning to reenter the dream.