In most books of poetry, I put a little check in the Table of Contents by the poems I really like. In Shaindel Beers‘ first collection of poetry, A Brief History of Time, I liked so many poems that I switched to marking the poems I didn’t love with a tiny x (only 9 out of 47).
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the collection:
From Elegy for a Past Life for its honesty: “Back then at sixteen/I thought we’d make it out together,/and become writers, the only job we could imagine/where we wouldn’t smell like shit or hay or cows”
From Why Gold-digging Fails for its detail: “and I decided to leave my marriage/with enough money to fix a timing belt/just in case my engine decided to go.”
From For Stephen Funk, in Prison for Protesting the Iraq War for its reaching: “Lately things have made me question the stuff/I’m made of. What is it that makes me me?”
From Taking Back the Bra Drawer for its imagery: “I don’t want him to be another man–…another man whose jewelry rests in a hidden/drawer, worn only as an accessory to/regret.”
My two favorite poems in the collection are “Flashback” and “Rewind.” Two very different poems, but inherent in the titles alone, a preoccupation with the past.
Fridays Mrs. Wampler would give in
and leave the projector light on
as the film wound from one reel to the other.
At six, the world moving backward amazed us
more than the world moving forward,
though that amazed us, too.
Full blooms squeezed back into buds;
seedlings hid themselves underground,
but our favorite was our claymation version
of Beauty and the Beast. We would cheer as each
petal affixed itself to the thorny stem
and the beast grew stronger, clap as Beauty
no longer wept at his deathbed. And soon,
he was a prince again, too polite to ever
insult a crone. This taught us that beginnings
are always best, despite all they say about
Happily Ever After. If we could invent
the automatic rewind, bodies would expel
bullets that would rest eternally in chambers,
130,000 people would materialize
as the Enola Gay swallowed the bomb,
landmines would give legs and fingers
back to broken children.
Right now, teeming cancer cells
would be rebuilding blood and bone.
“Rewind” is reprinted here with Shaindel’s permission. It won the 2007 Bob Dylan Award for Poetry for the poem most in the spirit of Bob Dylan at the Dylan Days Festival in Hibbing, MN. You can read more of Shaindel’s poems through links on her website. You can also listen to a wonderful interview with Shaindel on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud.