Review: Emily As Sometimes The Forest Wants The Fire by Darren C. Demaree

Cover of "Emily as Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire" by Darren C. Demaree: palm trees emerging from a lush landscape, bending to the left as in a strong wind.
Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire by Darren C. Demaree
Harpoon Books, 2019
125 pages, $16.00

Review by Donna Vorreyer

Darren C. Demaree’s Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire is no ordinary love song. It is An Answer More Convincing to questions we didn’t know we had, to why The Campfire Gathers the Branch. It reveals that Our Lust is a Common Lust, and it is both a remedy for The Gloom We Shed and a refuge for Where We Sigh. Here, the dark land of Ohio bears the fruit of a “soft no,” casts An Imperfect Light on whiskey bottles and backyards, the naked intimacy of a “comfortable love.” The lovers here are carved into one another’s chests, swirling in shared breath. Their connection is both mystic and realistic, blessed with the knowledge that No Words can ever really explain devotion. Is it A Shadow Folded Four Times, The Length of a Fox? How do you capture it when it can Dart and Pivot, Circling Like the Sparrows In The Evening? Written over the course of twelve years, these poems in peel back the curtain on a long relationship, hiding nothing from the reader. Each poem’s title begins with “Emily As,” two words that hint at portraiture but function as metaphor, description, setting and even accusation, illustrating a complex and deeply human wonder in the beloved.

These poems brim with honesty about the flaws of both the lover and the beloved, creating a perfect sort of linguistic kintsugi. They show how a relationship over time becomes A History of Living Bone, the Debris and Sparkle of the Firmament, both A High Window and A Leveling of Ground. They reveal the scars but also give us A Pin of Light Underneath the Train, a sense that The Rim of Night is no more fearsome than A Brought Apple or An Armful of Flowers. The collection weaves a sort of magic, one that gives the reader the feeling of both eavesdropping and participating in this scribed life. Sometimes This Comes Close to An Attempt at Alchemy as Demaree creates glimpses into the chemistry that makes a relationship grow and thrive. This is no playbook or how-to. There are no imperatives or platitudes here. Rather, these poems remind us of waking from a dream where we can see the answers we found in sleep just out of reach, Almost Illuminated. They give us both A Girl in a Chemise and the Measureless joy of A Smile When Thinking about that girl. We see The Town Earlier quiet, now filled with the thrill of A Tire’s Hot Squeal. Yet this collection is not a dream, no fantasy. Here the Trees Remain Trees and cities are cities and Elsewhere, Sunflowers.

Reading this collection creates a yearning, an almost guilty reaction as we think It’s Horrendous, Really how little we understand how to illuminate the wholeness and specificity of the ones we love. We may try, but The Proof Disappears and we are left with naught but A Book of Endings. What a gift then, these poems, evidence that it can be done. Never maudlin or sentimental, these poems seep into our hearts, make us question the way we view our worlds and the people who are the most important in them. Are we paying attention? Close attention? My God, what a blessing to be someone’s Emily. To have this attention paid.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), both from Sundress Publications. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Rhino, Tinderbox Poetry, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, and many other journals. Her third full-length collection is forthcoming in 2020 from Sundress.