Kim Blum-Hyclak’s debut collection of poems, “In the Garden of Life and Death” (Main Street Rag, $14 paper), will rip at your heart. The poems recount her daughter’s illness, inherited from the poet’s mother, but bypassing the poet herself. Former poet Joseph Bathanti has said these poems are “like nitro glycerin, compositions so volatile, balanced so precariously and expertly on the poet’s daring diction that they threaten at every turn, with every rut in the road, to explode and blow us all to Kingdom Come.”
IN THE GARDEN OF LIFE AND DEATH
My daughter brings my mother hats.
A hot-pink ball cap she’s decorated with paint
and colorful gems, and the white terry turban she wore.
My blood connects them, and me to the two of them
but I’m separated. My veins don’t know the burn of chemo.
Thoughts have not formed only to disappear as vapor.
I’ve never left a gathering because the aroma
of food and the scent of perfume made my stomach burn.
My loves share a secret language and knowledge
between their giggles as Mom tries on hats and preens.
She wraps a protective arm around her granddaughter.
Gabrielle curls, tucks and fits into the hollow
and curves of Mom’s side, the two of them like the bulbs
of my tulips and daffodils that form around each other
as they multiply and share their DNA. In summer
I’m to dig them up, reach down into cool earth, work roots
loose and separate them, feel for the diseased
or softened with age. But this year I’ll ignore
the leaves that turn to crepe, nature’s sign
of sleep, and hope the flowers will bloom again
one more year.
Kim Blum-Hyclak lives in Lancaster, S.C., where, if she’s not writing, she’s working in her garden.