Andrea Potos’s ninth poetry collection opens with this John Keats epigraph:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
It is true that the beauty in this world sustains us. Even after physical manifestation or terrestrial existence has ceased, the idea, essence, soul of the person or thing endures.
When a loved one passes away, he or she truly remains “forever in our hearts.”
Judging by the poems in Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), Andrea’s late mother embodied a rare brand of temporal as well as spiritual beauty. Though beauty is always in her line of sight (as it is with most poets), when it is viewed through the lens of personal loss and grief, it acquires tender and poignant facets as it becomes an agent of solace and healing.
Sorrow heightens perception as emotional guard rails fall away. When we mourn, we are blessed with divine clarity.
In these exquisitely crafted poems, Andrea honors her beloved mother by distilling memories that emerge like scattered shells on a beach: “I hold them up/to my ears. On certain days/inside their silence I can hear/the echoes of your voice.”
We get an intimate sense of her mother’s loveliness and presence through color, light, sensation, sound, image, impression — beautifully sculpted moments that transport us to the center of love and longing: “These pink lilies rising from clear stillness,/ these yellow butterflies stitching a path through daylilies and reeds,” “a fragrance beyond air/a whole melding of the lost rooms of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee, her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its freshness but potent enough to be here,” “tranquil joy/on her face like/Renoir/might have painted,/light dappling around and through her.”
Andrea also writes about her other loves — art (Renoir, Cassatt), literature (Dickinson, Alcott), faraway places (Ireland, Italy), her daughter and grandmother — all of which informs and enriches her poetic vision.
I love how she illuminates the eternal bond between mother and daughter with her elegant flashes of beauty:
WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND HER
In the dusky sky before dreaming,
behind the cobalt
curtain of your eyelids as
or rise —
on that landing just before waking–
precipice of expression — her face
like goldleaf shining.
one year later
Through the marrow
she was gone
through the hollow
into the bone-
core of our longing,
the colors of
her coral blouse
scattered with tiny
Oh, the beautiful anguish (“the bone-core of our longing” kills me . . . )!
With Mothershell, Andrea has created “a bower quiet for us,” a place both prayerful and powerful in its emotional scope.
Here are three more of my favorite poems from the book:
~ for Mom
The clearness of seeing:
in the corner booth still, her
Senior Special: two hotcakes,
two sausages and eggs over-easy,
a side of wheat toast doused in butter,
the two of us, here again,
her darkpink smile,
Greek skin still lovely after
80-plus years, her face etched so certainly
upon this air filled with the reassuring
clatter of voices and dishes that does not stop.
I love it here! she tells me again, isn’t Life
as certain as it ever was, she and I
face to face, drinking our coffee
black and filled to the top.
Andrea: “Breakfast Eternal” is a celebration of the many moments with my mother when we would go out for breakfast: our favorite meal. It didn’t matter where we went: Perkins, Maxfield’s Pancake House, Denny’s, or someplace fancier. . . . I relished what felt like an eternity of abundance and presence with her which I will always cherish.
A ROME MORNING
I sat al fresco in the cafe,
with Saint Brigida’s bells ringing,
young nuns gliding past me,
shoe clatter on cobblestones,
a drill in distant alleyways.
Two old men, cigarettes in their mouths
and newspapers tucked under their arms
bickered past me, while Bernini’s
bathtub fountain kept up its quiet gurgle.
I sipped my caffe, spread my notebook open.
Looking up, I saw my daughter, leaning
out the convent window in the room where
we’d slept like angels the night before.
She found me down here,
her hair, her wave, all of her
igniting in the Italian light.
Andrea: “A Rome Morning” celebrates the gorgeous Piazza Farnese, near the Pantheon. A small piazza that is maybe not as well-known as some of the others; it was home to us on the two trips we took to Rome. We stayed in the beautiful monastery, the Casa di Santa Brigida, which overlooks the piazza and the cafe where I so happily dwelled in this poem.
PARTIAL SYLLABUS OF BLUE
Cerulean from watercolor skies,
cobalt from Dutch 17th-century earthenware
everything between violet and turquoise,
the old names: Alexandrian blue, Egyptian blue
indigo from India, released
from the leaves of Indigofera,
woad from the shrub Isatis tinctoria, kindred color
for monks illumining the Book of Kells;
and the great lapis lazuli — blue stone
that birthed ultramarine, beyond the sea
and more costly than gold — glowing like evening just after
dusk has draped sky and lit from invisible worlds
on the other side of seeing, or from the dreamed
folds of Mary’s robes.
Andrea: “Partial Syllabus of Blue” arose one day while I was browsing in a little book about artists’ palettes. All the scientific and “official” names for the multitude of hues attracted me. I am especially drawn to the color blue: the “Greek blue” of my ancestors and the Mediterranean sea–what I have written about so frequently in my poems. . . I wanted it to be more than a “list” poem, and since I often associate the color blue with the spiritual realm, the melding with the Mary image came readily.
A big thanks to Andrea for permission to share these poems, and for providing commentary and personal photos. I always enjoy a little backstory, don’t you? 🙂
♥ In case you missed it, check out my 2018 Arrows of Light interview with Andrea, which includes more poems about her mom and the best ever blueberry pie.
written by Andrea Potos
published by Kelsay Books, April 2019
Poetry Collection, 61 pp.
SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY
Mr Cornelius and Blue Bear are giving away a brand new copy of Mothershell to one lucky Alphabet Soup poetry lover. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, September 18, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with MOTHERSHELL in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!
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