Reading Amira Thoron’s For My Father is like trespassing someone’s dream. Through the retelling of childhood memories and family past, she brings the reader on a journey into her private world, a world with hidden fears and recurring questions. Her spare, lyrical language unites the poems, making each image evocative and symbolic, from the screech of a red-tail hawk circling the sky, to the touch of letters engraved on her father’s tombstone. The book opens with a powerful couplet:
Water seeks its own level;
there is a leak I cannot find.
By tracing poignant moments of family past, her personal remembrances of her father as well as recollections and condolence letters from the others, the protagonist attempts to return to the core of affection and warmth before the father’s death, only to discover that time and warped memories have displaced it.
If this is a requiem, it is one filled with silences and sensation, in which ‘the mind trips / the trips over itself’. The narrative is continuously interrupted by turns of disappointment and feelings of rejection. Deep in her memory, there is the poignant image of a child who appears in front of her parents’ bedroom, filled with anticipation but turned away with the words: “It’s too early. Come back later.”
There is much to admire in the skill with which the poet recreates personal history, connecting memories with imagination. Home is conjured as a source of strength, longing and also hidden threats. Poring through her family album, she questions if her father loved her. There is the child’s gaze at the timeless grace of the mother and grandmother, the ‘little silver coins’ on her mother’s dress or the ‘violet scent’ of the grandmother, yet at the same time the gulf between the three generations seems enormous.
In my family
we do not
speak of it.
We do not speak.
Moreover, such silences and distance felt at home are juxtaposed with shocking images from the child’s mind (“…she tried to kill me with the meat cleaver”) and things observed happening outside the house, such as raccoons tearing up fresh meat, offering an incomplete account of the truth, suggesting the impossibility to relive the past.
The sequence of poems ends with the protagonist’s spiritual return to her home, or family, confronting a troubled past with a renewed sense of hope. The closing image of drinking from a chalice comes across as somewhat melodramatic. Nevertheless, Thoron’s first collection is a satisfying read, a narrative marked by an enigmatic, lyrical voice, rich symbolism and intimate perceptiveness. I look forward to reading her next collection.
Jennifer Wong’s latest collection, Goldfish, was published by Chameleon Press in 2013.
For My Father by Amira Thoron is published by Pleasure Boat Studio, New York, 2014,
(to read previous Magma blog reviews, please click on the ‘reviews’ tag immediately below)