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Made by Mary by Laura Catherine Brown



Fjords Review, Made by Mary - Laura Catherine Brown

By Laura Catherine Brown

C&R Press
342 Pages


Reviewed by Barton Smock


Laura Catherine Brown’s Made By Mary tells its tale of mothers and daughters, of the appeared and the mirrored,with a rambunctious melancholy of postmarked ache that transcends plot and becomes a hands-on spiritual in a land flattened by dream. In five elemental interruptions (Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Spirit), a natural math that makes one reimagine and not count the losses as recorded from 1999 to 2000, it is, for now, the story of Ann, the daughter, and Mary, the mother. Ann, born without a uterus, wants a child; I’m sorry, this is insufficient. Ann cannot have children, and wants to name them. Still, insufficient. Perhaps it is currently and quite verily the story of Mary, a maker of the decorated now and the proud owner of a past seen through the microscope of exodus. Next maybe it is the story of a birth; of one method orphaned by another method, then abandoned by methods, all. Look: to loneliness, Brown brings a crowd. Children are misremembered as missing, or denied their loss. World-views, unpeopled, wither. The ghosts here haven’t been themselves. Husbands and lovers believe in the world only long enough to worship their belief. Bodies battle for the souls of their caricatures. On paper, I’m not sure this looks seamless, but it is. Brown knows hope as no bread crumb, nor grape, but as the nakedness one swallows when breathing. Revelation is not held aloft, but is allowed its presence in the happenstance destiny of those carrying the differently heavy, be they the children of their art, their magic, their drugged precisions, or of their unowned transport. As a teller, Brown is not opportunistic, is generous, and writes vividly, via the clinical, the clandestine, and the cathartic, the flower that blooms for doll and wilts for puppet. Magic here is real, and not a crime of otherhood. Is the watermark that authenticates the invisible signage of maternal kindness. Is a transaction necessary to navigate the desperations of poverty and travel and the cruelty of those who eat only the earth they walk on. If the physical can finalize itself in error, then ritual can be called upon to perfect the shape of the spellbound. By the glow of what being’s bone do we fossilize the gaslighting of the unborn? Is a photograph a snapshot of faith? How, and who, does one love once it's discovered that reclamation has visiting hours and that inheritance has no creator? A comedy of accuracies, this work is beautifully about time, and how we spoon our need to be disburdened of form’s want to leave a mark.

Barton Smock lives in Columbus, OH, with his wife and four children. He is the author of the chapbook infant*cinema (Dink Press 2016) and of the full-length poetry collection Ghost Arson (Kung Fu Treachery Press 2018). He edits the online poetry journal {isacoustic*}.


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