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GlOrious - Joan Cusack Handler

GlOrious

September 2003
GlOrious

Handler writes the full orchestral score of what is female.
-Afaa Michael Weaver

Laid forth in six sections, the poems in GlOrious speak of the transmigration of a woman–from an emotionally stifled girlhood through the first tentative steps of self-discovery to, finally, the apostasy of womanhood and the ecstasy that everyday rebellion can bring. Combining the confessional candor of a Robert Lowell or John Berryman with the ecstatic modernist ranting quality of an Alan Ginsberg or Charles Bukowski, Joan Cusack Handler has fashioned a unique voice as a poet.

Chicago Book and Media Show Honorable Mention 2003

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From GlOrious:

Sad

						…       is a tunnel
						inside my chest:
						hot, tight, small
						and dark.  Not
						t o t a lly black,
						e nough     gray
						for  me  to  see
						the s h a d ows
						I make  a l o ne
						here:the beaten
						calf, theburned
						b r  a n c h e s,
						the bruisedgrey
						stone.  No, it is
						not enough for
						Sad to sit here
						qu i etly a lone
						– content to be
						left alone. No,
						it must insist it
						– self into every
						place that jOy
						lives or recalls.
						G   r   e   e   d   y
						for something
						so knotted   &
						small), it takes
						m      o      r     e
						than  i ts share
						at the table – 
						c o m p e ting
						with each sun-
						r i se  or  son’s
						cry.       I  even
						felt   i t   s t i  r
						and perchon
						the backofmy
						neck      when
						my  husband
						drewthe  ruby
						n  e  c  k  l  a  c  e
						close&clasped
						itbehindmyhair.
						I t was Christ-
						mas.  &  Sad
						has s h a p es
						&   s m e l l s.
						S o metimes
						I can touch it.
						S  a  d        I  s
						the   h  u  g  e
						moss covered
						b o o t  of that
						bl o a ted oak
						plundering its
						way  through
						the    farmer’s
						picket   fence.
						Sad is a too-
						Tall GirL  when
						boys  &   her
						brotherlaugh
						&       tease.
						Sad   is   my
						M o th e r’ s
						coldcreamed
						face,  when I 
						r  e  a  c  h  u  p
						totouchit.  Sad
						is   my   father,
						d r u n konce	
						in   the   bath-
						room,mother
						pounding on
						the door.Sad
						is my mother
						s t i l l crying
						on the couch.
						It’swetsmelly
						Sheets;   I t ‘s
						kneelingatthe
						bathtub’saltar
						– wrists numb
						intheicywater.
						It’s    S i s t e r 
						Mary Thomas
						saying I have
						no backbone.
						S a d   is   the
						weddingring
						I   for   get   to
						wear   &  the
						flannel night
						gown   I   re-
						ly on in bed.
						Sad   is   the
						Place   that
						secrets go;
						It’s the place
						I  go    when
						there’s   no
						place  else
						tobesmall.

Glory

                                                    I cannot remember my body
                                                                before the hair:
                                                                  dark frenzied
                                                                       gateway
                                                     between
                                                               virtue          & sin.
                   It seemed that the body
                            had thrown on
                               its clothes.
                                                                                          Did the hair arrive
                                                                                                    when Eve sinned?
                              Perhaps
   there’s a possible undoing:
                return to pre-Eden
                                 Eve & the hair
                                       disappears.                                   Or
                                                                                              perhaps the hair
                                                                                               isn’t shame
                                                                                        but nature’s
                                                                                 protection
                      & like the thorn on holly
                                      &    roses,
                                                                    the hair
                                                                 brings blood:

                                                                   glory blood,
                                                                     Eve blood,
                                                           Bread & Wine Blood.

                                                           This curtained kingdom
                                                                 that generates
                                                                      the blood then
                                                                                         releases it,
                                                                  is the gate
                                                            through which
                                                          my son entered
                                                                the world.

                                                                      What
                                                                      holier
                                                                    place
                                                                 than this
                                                                    vagina,
                                                                   this cave
                                                             &birthplace
                                                 F  o  r  c  e  d      O  p  e  n
                                                         when he was full&
                                                         grown & it    was
                                                         time    for him to
                                                         m  a  ke  his way
                                                                        Out
                                                            like Christ did
                                                          on Easter Morning?

         What holier sacrament
                   than the sex

                                                              he was made of
                                                                 beneath this
                                                              flourish of hair?

Praise for GlOrious

GlOrious takes the broad and dangerous campaign into the heart of betrayal and loss, dangerous inasmuch as humanity would rather not believe the deepest depths of its own cruelty, the way it seeks its own ending by murdering its promise. In this shimmering collection, Joan Handler shows us the gems that come from pain in the fragile fibers of her spirit, as the poems fall like pearls fleeing their binding string to be reborn... The spirit of the book lives as the poet lives, seeking and then knowing and seeking again...

—Afaa Michael Weaver

Crowned by the protean, sensuous language that whiplashes across its pages, GlOrious is glorious... With her sinewy humor, bravura honesty and fierce excess, Handler becomes a warrior goddess of the psycho-poetics she champions. Her canny insights and uncanny intuition reinvigorate our world.

—Molly Peacock

Joan Cusack Handler... writes of the body’s unapologetic continuing... with a largesse that volleys between tender and roaring. Her lines blow wide, her metaphors tree tall as she roots the whole oaken structure in her signature loamy sexuality... She renders the psychological spiritual and back again... Few writers... have dared this kind of generosity, and ...confronted Spirit with such fervent audacity and won.

—Maureen Seaton, The Boston Review

Further books

  • Orphans
  • Confessions of Joan the Tall
  • The Red Canoe: Love In Its Making
  • The Waiting Room Reader: Stories To Keep You Company, Vol.1
  • The Breath Of Parted Lips: Voices From The Robert Frost Place, Vol.1.
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